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BP's $20 Billion Claim Fund: Should Victims File a Claim?

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Panama City, FLBP has announced a $20 billion claim fund to compensate victims of the BP oil spill. The announcement, however, may complicate matters for people affected by the oil spill who are not sure whether they should file a claim with BP or file a lawsuit. Wes Pittman, attorney at The Pittman Firm, P.A., has some advice for people wondering how to deal with the BP disaster.

"I feel sorry for the folks who don't have attorneys working for them, because they will be at BP's mercy. It would be nearly unheard of for a giant corporation to treat its victims fairly"
"First, filing a claim [with BP] is advisable because it is necessary under the law to first file a claim—as an administrative step—before filing suit," Pittman says. "That's not to say that suing will be absolutely essential; we want to get people compensated without that. But, if BP fails to respond to the claims in a timely fashion, as BP's past history indicates will be the case, a properly presented claim is a prerequisite to filing a suit."

For people who file a claim with BP, contacting an attorney is still a good idea. An attorney is trained to work through the documents required to properly file a claim and to gather and submit evidence that proves the victim's claim.

It is also unclear whether everyone who has been affected by the oil spill will be fairly compensated. Although the news has focused on the losses suffered by fishermen, there are many other people whose income relies on the interrelationships between businesses in the Gulf of Mexico region.

"For example, [there is] the beach resort wedding planner that books bands from Atlanta and Myrtle Beach," Pittman says. "Or the east coast sport fishing magazine publisher whose nationally distributed Florida fishing magazine has lost nearly all of its advertising revenue, even from old and reliable advertisers, because they fear spending money to tout fishing products for Florida in the midst of record vacation cancellations.

"Then, there's the jazz band in New Orleans that doesn't get gigs because tourism has dried up, and the elderly retired lady on the Gulf Coast of Alabama who relied on her condominium being rented to supplement her social security."

What this means is that there are many people whose incomes are affected by the BP oil spill—people who might not have thought the spill would affect them at all.

Those who have suffered losses as a result of the oil spill should consider contacting an attorney who can help them file their BP claim and determine if a lawsuit is warranted.

"I feel sorry for the folks who don't have attorneys working for them, because they will be at BP's mercy," Pittman says. "It would be nearly unheard of for a giant corporation to treat its victims fairly."


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