The Battle For GCCF Claims Heats Up

On Monday, several members of the tight knit Grand Isle fishing community banded together to deliver a petition to President Obama complaining about Kenneth Feinberg of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) and  asking for his immediate dismissal or resignation.

GCCF Has A Lack of Effort and Transparency

As you all know, Mr. Feinberg is the administrator of the GCCF.  This is the office that is supposed to be processing your final claims payments from damages suffered from the BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and oil spill.  Grand Isle fishermen and community members circulated the petition all over the Gulf Coast and on Facebook.  They are decrying Feinberg’s lack of effort, lack of transparency, lack of propriety, and his failure to carry out his mission—to make whole the peoples of the Gulf Coast that BP has put through certain hell.

GCCF Has Not Done Enough With the BP Claims Fund

One such resident, Karen Hopkins, assistant to Grand Isle shrimp dock owner Dean Blanchard, is leading the charge.  She claims that Feinberg has simply not done enough to make sure that the $20 billion fund, which was set aside by BP to settle the claims brought by damaged Gulf Coast residents immediately following the accident, has been properly handled and fairly distributed.  Hopkins says that Feinberg is stymieing those filing claims at every turn, constantly denying claims and demanding more and more paperwork.  These actions, she explains, go against everything BP and the GCCF have publicly promised.

We need an investigation of the GCCF

Further, it is also being pointed out that there would be many more signatures on the petition if people whose claims are currently being considered were not afraid of having their claims denied in retaliation.  The GCCF says they have been inundated with nearly half a million claims that they are currently attempting to process.  By their own admission, only 168,013 claims have been paid out, totaling nearly $3 million of the $20 billion set aside.

When accused of not being an impartial administrator, Feinberg is quick to point out that he spent a lot of money having Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University School of Law, investigate his situation with BP.  Professor Gillers claims that he read through all of Feinberg’s contracts with BP and, even though he is being paid and employed by BP, Feinberg is still able to work independently of their control.  Keep in mind that Gillers was paid from the $20 billion account as well.  Some might analogize this to having the wolf’s best friend make sure the wolf himself was doing a fine job guarding the hen house.

GCCF Claim Denied? Don’t Panic!

Nearly half a million people and businesses are expected to file for final claims with BP’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF). So far, over 80% of claimants have received the full amount requested.

Roughly 315,000 GCCF Claims have been denied

Some, however, have been denied. Since August 23, 2010, 92,000 claims have been settled at a cost of around $1.7 billion. Roughly 315,000 claims have been denied due to their inability to prove their damages. Many of the claims denied for emergency funds were turned down due to fraudulent reasons. With so many people trying to simply cash in on what they see as an easy win, it has become increasingly difficult to attend to those who really have been affected. If you believe that you are eligible for a claim, do your research and organize your proof. If it is difficult for you to provide proof that you have been severely affected by the spill, then it is highly likely that your claim will be denied by BP. If you still feel like you have a valid claim, then it would be wise to contact an attorney and have them review your situation.

Why a Free Attorney Review might be smart

There are several options to consider if your claim has been denied by BP, or by the Gulf Coast Claims Fund. Your best option would be to contact an attorney and have them review your claim to see if they would be interested in a potential lawsuit against BP. An attorney might be willing to take your case on a contingency basis. This means that instead of paying up front, instead they would receive part of your claims payment as payment for their work. This is a standard contact between you and the law firm giving them the right to litigate your BP claim for you. In return, they would take a fee of 20-40% of your final judgment. If you decide to retain an attorney, you can be safe in the knowledge that the attorney would protect you and work hard to get your claim paid, as this is the only way they would get paid.

On the other hand, you are not required to have an attorney to file your own claim. You have the fundamental right to represent yourself in your claim against BP. This is called suing “pro se”, or representing yourself in the court. It’s not the best plan of action, but it is totally legal and you can collect all the paperwork from the court house where you plan on suing. As a side note, keep in mind that court clerks are forbidden by law from offering you any legal advice. Only attorneys can do this.

Another option would be to file a claim with the National Pollution Fund Center (NPFC). The NPFC is the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Pollution Fund Center and they may accept claims that have been denied by BP or the Gulf Coast Claims Fund, or have taken more than 90 days to resolve. You may file your claim by submitting your paper work to:

US COAST GUARD STOP 7100

4200 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1000

Arlington, VA 20598-7100

The claim must be submitted by August 23, 2013, within three years of the spill. If your claim is approved, you must then sign a release form to get the claims payment from NPFC. The process of filing your oil spill claim with the NPFC should take no more than sixty days.