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BP’s CEO has promised that it will pay all "legitimate" oil spill claims from the recent disaster. But, how will they determine which claims are legitimate and which are not? Some claims would seem easy to document. These would include cancellations at hotels, motels and condos. Others would include cancelled charter fishing trips and other pre-scheduled excursions. All that would seem necessary is documentation that reservations were made and cancelled. Further, I would expect that these claims could be presented periodically as incurred, maybe monthly with the understanding that subsequent claims could be presented when incurred later.

But some claims will prove more difficult to document and some may not be able to document at all.The first of these two types of claims will be the loss of revenue at restaurants, souvenir shops and other shops and businesses that will be hurt because fewer people have come to the beach than would have come in the absence of this oil spill. Fishermen and other seafood harvesters and seafood vendors will face similar problems. How do you show that fewer people came to the beaches to stay because of the possible oil spill? And how does anyone know if the seafood harvest is worse due to the oil spill? The only way I can think of is to keep careful records of this season so that they can be compared with seasons past.

Finally, what about businesses away from the Gulf and the beaches such as inland restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses that will have less patronage because fewer people are visiting the region? These will probably end up as contested claims.

I recommend that all persons who think they MAY have a claim keep the best records possible and present their claims, particularly those discussed in the first paragraph, as early and as often as possible. But, I would not get in a hurry to rush out and hire a lawyer. If BP is sincere in settling legitimate claims you should be able to settle them by yourself. If not, you can always hire an attorney later. In future blogs I’ll talk about this subject.

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