The Passenger Vessel Association reminded its members on the gulf coast that economic losses from the BP oil spill may be compensable. As the spill continues and spreads, it may inflict harm upon PVA members in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. These members may be able to obtain compensation from either British Petroleum or the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
The federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990, enacted following the Exxon Valdez spill, provides that persons who suffer documented physical or economic injuries from an oil spill can be compensated for their damages. Payment will be made by either the “responsible party” (in this case, BP) or (in the event the responsible party doesn’t pay in a timely way) by the federal Oil Spill Pollution Trust Fund, administered by the Coast Guard. Possible injuries might include: (1) cleaning the hull of a vessel slimed by oil slicks; or (2) loss of revenues because of cancelled charters or simply because customers have been “scared off” by media reports of the spill.
Economic losses include a loss of profits or impairment of earning capacity. A claimant should make a good faith calculation of the dollar value of the economic loss. If possible, documentary evidence of the lost business should be saved. For instance, records of charter cancellations should be retained. To demonstrate evidence of a downturn in “walk up” business because of public fears of the spill, one might produce records showing revenue for the prior year or perhaps the three prior years compared to the diminished revenue for the same period in 2010.
BP has set up the following website to instruct persons how to file damage claims: www.bp.com/claims
If BP turns down a claim or if it unduly delays action, a claimant may turn to the Coast Guard’s Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.