Oil continues to wash ashore all along the Florida coast, and up to 100,000 barrels of toxic crude continue to pour into the Gulf every day, 100 times more than the initial oil spill admission by BP and 25 times the initial government estimate. The results are a catastrophic loss of marine wildlife and their habitat . Delicate wetlands are being destroyed, as well as many residents’ jobs and ways of life. While such loss cannot yet be calculated , oil spill lawyers from Florida to Louisiana are preparing for the thousands of oil spill lawsuits being filed. Most lawsuits are targeting BP, Transocean (the operator of the oil rig whose explosion started the spill) and other companies affiliated with the Transocean Deepwater Horizon.
Lawyers estimate hundreds of thousands of plaintiffs in the Gulf Coast region are seeking damages . So far, oil spill lawsuits include oystermen, charter boat captains, resort management companies and individual property owners. The economic effect due to unemployment and loss of rental income is staggering. President Obama makes connections between this oil spill – the worst environmental disaster of all time – and the terrorist attacks of 9/11 for good reason; this is not just an ecological crisis, it is a human rights crisis. People’s lives have radically changed for the worse as both their cultures and economies are destroyed. Families that have relied for generations on the fishing industries face an uncertain future. Native Americans living on “water cities” in the Gulf are being forced to move and will likely to lose their way of life. The State of Florida reports almost 4,000 jobs lost.
The government is responding to the rights of legitimate claims. David Axelrod, a White House senior advisor stated , “We want to make sure that money is escrowed for the legitimate claims that are going to be made and are being made by businesses down in the Gulf, people who have been damaged by this. And we want to make sure that money is independently managed so that they won’t be slow-walked on these claims.” Although recent news reports are showing fishermen’s oil spill claims are being paid in a less than timely manner and may not be equal to the amount of lost income.
This demand by the Obama administration strengthens existing and future claims – both civil and class action oil spill lawsuits. Currently there are at least 26 potential class action lawsuits being filed, representing many thousands of people. Those in similar situations can band together to claim economic losses due to company negligence. Despite the establishment of the $20 billion British Petroleum fund for settling oil spill claims, many who have applied have yet to even receive notification that their claim has been acknowledged, let alone be paid. With money ready to be paid out, when will the oil spill claims process catch up with the cash?