During the last few weeks, I described the laws governing how to obtain compensation for oil spill damages. The oil in the Gulf of Mexico is moving nearer to us, and the coming chaos of churning waters during our hurricane season that just began makes further discussion about the oil problem imperative.
Oil hit Dauphin Island off Mobile and was 7 miles south of Pensacola just a week ago. As you have been hearing, it is closer to us now in Bay and Walton Counties. Let me come immediately to some critical points about what you must do and not do if you have lost income or property value because of the BP spill. I am not going to mince words. We are at war with BP.
Do not underestimate the situation. Despite what it says in pretty advertisements or in TV interviews, its history has been sorry, and its PR people have been spinning the truth 24/7. It started by saying, "We'll pay all legitimate claims," whatever that means. Now, it's saying its liability is limited. That is certainly clearer, and it serves to tell us that it is going to deny as many claims as possible. Its corporate survival depends on that.
So, what do you need to know? First, avoid the class actions that have been filed as if they are the plague. The likelihood of their success is small. Why did some lawyers file class actions even though federal courts hate class actions and refuse to certify the classes when everyone's damages are so different? Only they can tell you, but one thought is that by filing class actions, they thought they could get publicity to attract other victims of the oil spill to become clients.
Second, it may be important to avoid any suit that can be transferred to federal multi-district litigation in a court that is yet to be determined by the Washington-based judicial panel on multi-district litigation. It is likely that litigation in that forum will consume years. Look at the Exxon Valdez mess that has been going on in that kind of litigation for over twenty years. The people in Alaska still have not been paid. Finally, lawyers of all types, criminal, real estate, and divorce, to name a few, are suddenly pronouncing their expertise in negligence or insurance law, the type law that truly governs these cases, and are filing cases in those forums.
Beware of anyone who is not a tort lawyer, that is, someone who routinely handles negligence cases and who has maritime law experience. Take the time to examine their websites, and take the time to consider the best forum for filing your case if you have been damaged. One law does hold a reasonable chance of success for you. I will cover it in the coming weeks. If you have questions, email me.