I just returned home from another fact finding trip to Houston, Texas. The purpose of this trip was to learn more about the current status of the BP oil spill settlement as well as what we should expect in the near future. In this post I will share my findings and my views on the current events including the upcoming October 1 Opt out and the OPA presentment of Jan 19, 2013.
First, before you read further, please be advised that I am not an attorney and I don’t give out legal advice. I am stating my opinion on the BP claims matter as I have been doing for the last two years. Please contact an attorney that is not part of the PSC (Plaintiff steering committee) to get legal advice on whether you should participate in Opt out or stay in the Deepwater Horizon Settlements. If you do not have an attorney to help you, by filling out the contact form on the right side of this website, your contact information will be shared with attorneys willing to offer you a Free Consultation.
The Deepwater Horizon Settlement Status Report
At first glance, it appears as if our friends at the Deepwater Horizon Settlement office are trying to get payments out as fast as possible. But thanks in part to piles of paperwork required and too few personnel to process, claims are moving slower than anticipated.
As of their last update, over 52,000 claims had been filed and only 1,500 offers had been sent out.
From the offers I have personally seen, 80% are VOO offers. The stats on the Deepwater Horizon Settlement website may not show that to be the case, but that is what I have seen. I am happy to report that I have also witnessed bigger offers in the 1.3 million dollar range.
This indicates to me that they don’t just pay the small claims first and wait to settle the bigger cases later. It appears that Price Water House Accounting is doing some of the bigger business cases, and Brown Greer are doing a mix of small and large cases. The update on the attorney portal looks to be working well, however, since only the attorneys can access the portal but not the clients, only the attorneys can get updates on the cases they have submitted.
I believe that they are trying to get as many cases as possible processed at the Deepwater Horizon Settlement in order to get offers back to clients. On the statistic page, it shows that 10,000 cases are in processing which could mean that all will move faster once these cases are in the offer stage.
What About The October 1, 2012 Opt Out?
This latest trip to Houston just might have changed my opinion slightly on the October 1, 2012 Opt out. Remember that this is my opinion and I am NOT a lawyer. First, I wish the date could be moved so that people would not have to commit to a settlement before they even know what they might get for a settlement offer. If the date cannot be moved or will not be moved, then I recommend the following:
If you have documents that support a loss in 2010, you know what Zone you are in, and you know what your industry multiplier is, then you have a pretty good idea what your compensation should be. If you are satisfied with that number, then you should remain in the settlement. In my opinion, this would be a possibility for individuals with smaller income losses that can be clearly shown on their tax returns or W2’s. You will need to have all the supporting documentation and you are only seeking compensation for losses that the settlement will compensate a class member.
Now I would imagine that you may be curious as to what type of losses are not compensated for class members but might be compensated later under OPA or at a trial.
Oil spill related losses that are not covered in the settlement because the losses are difficult to quantify and put a cost on the loss, might be decided later by a jury. Examples include:
- Lose of home due to hardship
- Lose of car due to hardship
- Lose of family due to hardship
There are many considerations to take into account when contemplating whether or not you will Opt out.
- Cost of trial versus value of your case – If you have lost over $100,000 because of the BP oil spill, going to trial should be a legitimate option for you. If you have lost less than $100,000, the costs of trial might make this a less desirable option.
- Time value to money – Consider the amount you might receive in the settlement, for example, $60,000. Perhaps you feel that you could receive $100,000 if you opted out of the settlement and went to trial. The trial could very well be 12-18 months from October 1, 2012. Would you be happiest with the $60,000 then or wait 12-18 months for $40,000 more?
- Were your losses in 2010? – The settlement only looks at the losses up to 2010. For seafood harvesters and processors, there has been a steady decline in many cases in 2011 and 2012. The multiplier of 6 to 9.25 is good for seafood harvesters but only for your 2010 losses. If you lost money after 2010, it might only make sense to opt in if your 2010 proven losses settlement would be enough to cover your future losses.
- Complex high dollar business claims – It is difficult to know exactly what compensation you will receive, especially if you are filing a business claim. This makes it hard to decide whether or not to Opt out. Most of the attorneys that I have approached with this question agree that anyone in this group Opt out. This way you will keep your option available to have your day in court.
If you feel that you might want to Opt out of the Deepwater Horizon settlement, get an attorney now! The deadlines are close and your attorney will need plenty of time to get your case prepared correctly. Filling out the red form on the right of this page will put you in touch with an experienced BP oil spill attorney. If you need an attorney, now is the time to contact one.
What Comes Next With OPA Presentment?
For everyone that wants to Opt out, the deadline is October 1, 2012. After that, you will automatically be included in the class settlement with no other option. Anyone living in a class zone and/or those that employed in a class industry will be in the Deepwater Horizon settlement.
For those that have chosen to Opt out and those people that are not part of the class settlement, your next deadline is January 19, 2013. This is the OPA (Oil Pollution Act) Presentment, a statute of limitations deadline to file all claims with OPA’s agent (BP) in Houston, Texas. This deadline has to be met by all attorneys.
BP will then have 90 days to review your case. They can either make a money offer or deny it. Your case will be filed with the MDL (Multi District Litigation) in New Orleans, where the judge will then send the cases back to the district they came from. Now the client and their attorney will have a choice of venue, either Houston, Texas (BP’s main office) or the client’s locale.
When the case is sent back to the district courts, the judge in each court will put the case on their calendar and set a trial schedule. This can take 12 – 18 months after the deadline and is dependent on the judge in New Orleans and the local judge’s schedules. Remember, the New Orleans judge overseeing all the MDL also has the government case as well as the other Deepwater Horizon cases to deal with.
Whether you are a class member or chose to opt out of the settlement, be ready for the long haul. Hopefully, the compensation will be better for those that go to trial, but a jury trial can sometimes be a gamble.
Again, remember there is a rush to get all documents and paperwork to the attorneys whether you are choosing the settlement or the OPA presentment. We are getting very close to the deadlines and the statute of limitations, so you need to get your paperwork in as soon as possible.