5 Tips for Successful Oil-Spill Claims

Follow these steps to help ensure that BP considers your oil-spill claim promptly and with minimum hassle.

Make sure to thoroughly document loss of income that can be attributed to the oil spill. Image: US Environmental Protection Agency

If oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has washed up on your property, you can file a claim for damages with BP. While the company has said it will pay all legitimate oil-spill claims, there are steps you can take to improve your claim’s odds of being handled quickly.

1. Keep it simple. Claims for a simple, easy-to-document loss, such as loss of rental income, are being paid more quickly than complex ones over loss in property value, says Stuart Smith, principal partner with Smith Stag LLC in New Orleans. In fact, Ken Feinberg, appointed by President Obama to oversee the BP oil-spill claims fund, has publicly stated that property owners probably won’t receive compensation solely because home values fall.

2. Document thoroughly. More than one-third of the 105,000 oil-spill claims filed with BP as of early July 2010 were delayed awaiting documentation, according to the company.

Depending on the type of claim, here are some of the documents you might need:

  • Clean-up: receipts for equipment you bought; pay records for workers you hired; detailed descriptions of what was done; dated photos to show work.
  • Loss of rents and income: accounting records and tax forms to show past occupancy and changes in rental income; notices of cancellation of rentals; written statements that cancellations were the result of the oil spill.
  • Real or personal property damage: proof of property ownership, such as a tax bill; receipts for repairs; before-and-after photographs of damage from the oil spill; appraisals or other proof of loss in value.

3. Be patient. Although BP says that claims to individuals for property damage were paid in seven days on average, the company has 90 days under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to review all claims after they are completed before deciding whether to approve an oil-spill claim. 

4. Follow up. If you’ve made a claim and haven’t gotten a response, call 800-573-8249. Have handy your claim number and the name and phone number of the BP adjustor you spoke with.

5. Don’t make duplicate claims. Even if you’re claiming more than one type of loss for a single property, file only one claim. But if you’re filing claims for several different properties, each one needs a separate claim and claim number.