By Vicki Needham - 07/16/10 08:03 PM EDT
Those affected will only waive their right to sue if they accept a final lump-sum payment. They can still sue if they accept initial emergency payments, he said.
The claims fund will operate for three years and will allow businesses and individuals to be compensated for not only damage from the oil spill but for lost tourism money and health insurance.
So far, fishermen have received $32 million and shrimpers $18 million. About $77 million has been paid for loss of income to those who are out of work because of the massive spill, including deckhands and employees of seafood processing plants, according to BP.
Approximately 114,000 claims have been submitted, but more than 61,000 lack enough information for BP to make a payment, or claimants have been unreachable after filing, BP said.
BP began mailing letters to 48,000 claimants, about 5,000 a day, who haven’t provided the necessary documentation. Oldest claims will be dealt with first, according to Darryl Willis, who is with the BP claims team.
The 13,000 who haven’t been reached by telephone are being sent a letter asking them to contact BP so that the claims process can move forward.
In addition, BP has determined that 4,000 claims are duplicates, erroneous or have been withdrawn. Currently, 17,000 claims are in process being evaluated for payment.
“We strongly encourage those who have not yet sent in their supporting documents to do so,” Willis said. “BP is committed to paying all legitimate claims. As soon as we have the information, we will process them.”