New BP settlement rules ease requirements for claims
Billions of dollars from the BP damages fund are waiting to be claimed and new requirements mean more people might be eligible as part of a class action settlement. "You're talking tens of millions of people who can participate," said attorney Tom Young, adding that he has never seen anything like it. "Accountants, chiropractors, doctors, vets, all trades people, electricians, plumbers," Young said. "It does seem too good to be true." "The biggest one that I'm personally familiar with, not one that I happen to be representing, is about $5 million but I suspect there will be dozens and dozens of $10 and $20 million claims," he said.The agreement is the result of the explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico that killed 11 workers and started one of the worst environmental catastrophes in U.S. history. The damages are being awarded because, even though the oil did not reach Tampa area beaches, reports of the spill kept tourists from coming to the area and so hurt the local economy. "The story was around the country, and frankly around the world, that oil was coming here. An ecological disaster was impending and the message that was sent out was don't come to our beaches," Young said. And that message impacted businesses into Hillsborough County. "There was a trickle down effect between the family who didn't come to the beach, therefore a waitress didn't get employed at the hotel, therefore she didn't take her children to Busch Gardens that weekend, Busch Gardens didn't have to bring in extra employees from Plant City, the Plant City Denny's slowed down," Young said. And that is why businesses and individuals that can show they had a financial loss during that time period might be looking at a big pay day. Mack Suner, an employee at a beach hotel, was at the claim center is trying again for a financial boost under the new settlement. He said is first claim was rejected. "It may be not that much but you get a couple thousand dollars it would be a huge help," Suner said. The claim center is at 2551 Drew St., Suite 303, in Clearwater. And, that's the message Young wants to get out: the money is there but residents need to know how to find it. "The big story here is the plumber in Plant City, is the professional in South Tampa, is the farmer in Dade City," Young said. "Those are the folks that are really not aware of this but if we can make them aware, I think there will be a billion dollars maybe $2 billion infused into the economy within the next 18 months." The first fund established by BP, and administered by Kenneth Feinberg, to pay claims right after the spill was criticized for being too slow and subjective. That's why this new settlement that is more favorable to claimants was reached earlier this year. Young and other attorneys are helping clients maneuver the complicated document. For more information on filing a claim, go to http://www.deepwaterhorizonsettlements.com/
News Channel 8 reporter Stacie Schaible contributed to this report.