BP Opens Independent Claims Facility to Handle Gulf Coast Disaster Payouts

The independent claims facility set up with BP money to pay victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil flow disaster officially launched this morning.

The Gulf Coast Claims Facility opens for business today, taking over from BP the distribution of compensation to people and businesses who are suffering from the April explosion and destruction of the Deep Water Horizon drilling platform.

Facility administrator Kenneth R. Feinberg appeared at public forums over the past week on the Gulf Coast to discuss the payout process, including the type of claims that the fund will address.

He is using mediation processes to administer the payouts.  In contrast to similar processes Feinberg used for insurers in recovery from Hurricane Katrina and his work on the 2001 Victim Compensation Fund, the Gulf Coast facility is emphasizing claims documentation over face-to-face ADR-style sessions.

BP has committed $20 billion to the fund, and said it has paid close to $400 million so far. (A roundup of its payments and the transfer of the claims responsibility from the company can be found here.) The Gulf Coast Claims Facility will take applications for relief until August 2013.

The facility’s website includes forms and instructions; claims maybe filed online, in person, by fax or by mail. Frequently asked questions about the claims process can be found here.

Feinberg told audiences last week his goal is to pay emergency claims within 24 hours. Reports on Feinberg’s town hall meetings with individuals and businesses on the claims process from this weekend can be found in the Mobile, Ala., Press-Register, here, and from last week in the Florida panhandle via WJHG in Panama City Beach, Fla., here.

--Russ Bleemer, Editor, Alternatives