Are you considering suing British Petroleum over the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? Were you thinking about it, but decided it was just too much trouble? Well, it is about to get a whole lot easier.
Government joins civil lawsuit
Recently, the United States Department of Justice announced that it is going to join civil lawsuits that citizens have filed against BP. However, Kenneth Feinberg, who runs the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), also recently said that he will provide pro bono legal assistance to anyone who needs help filing out their final claims paperwork for the GCCF. What does all this mean to you?
For starters, if you have already filed a final claim with the GCCF for damages you incurred as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, then you have already signed away your right to sue BP. By taking money from their $20 billion settlement fund, you gave up your right to sue. If you are thinking about filing a final claim, including any quarterly advance claims, then you should realize that by filing that final claim, you will be required to give up any future claims against BP or the GCCF. That means that you will never be able to sue them and you will never be able to join a class action suit against them. For most, that is probably just fine. Now that the GCCF is providing free lawyers to help you fill out your final claims paperwork, it will be even easier to get your paperwork together and file it and get your piece of the $20 billion pie. The GCCF will provide you free local assistance. This should make the process much more streamlined, transparent, and consistent. It will probably be exactly what most Gulf Coast people need, especially with the new quick pay option coming online. Just remember that once you file a claim and get paid out for it, you can no longer sue BP or make any future claims to the GCCF.
How to file a lawsuit
If you have decided that you want no part of the GCCF and the $20 billion settlement fund and that you would rather sue British Petroleum that is certainly your prerogative. You will need to retain a lawyer or join a class action suit, but you definitely have the right to do it, so long as you do not (or have not in the past) filed a claim with the GCCF. Now that the United States Justice Department has decided to join in the suit process, things should get easier with the court process should you choose to go that route. They will bear the expense of deposing key witnesses and gathering evidence that you can use in your battle. That could save you a lot of money.
Join a lawsuit
Dozens of people have already been filed against BP. These cases have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation forum in federal court in New Orleans. Any future suits will also most likely be brought into this court as well. This is a great benefit for those who are suing. You can basically sit back and let the federal government gather all the evidence against BP and then collect from the winnings when it is all over in court. Something important to keep in mind though is that if you sue, you cannot make claims with the GCCF. You cannot take advantage of the final claims process, including the quick pay option. If you join the lawsuit and BP wins, then not only do you not get anything at all, you will most likely end up owing court costs and attorneys fees. If you win and the jury decides a small amount, you may get a lot less than you would have gotten from the GCCF. If you win, however, you may get a much larger amount than you would have gotten from the GCCF. Also keep in mind that lawsuits can take decades to play out in court. Even if you win, you may not see any money for more than ten to twenty years. So, it is a huge gamble, but the odds are good. Now that the US DOJ has joined the lawsuit process, your odds are even better, but be prepared to play the waiting game for a while.