Investigations on the impact of the April 20, 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill that affected the lives and livelihood of thousands who lived on the coastlines of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana is far from over. It is estimated that it will take decades before the full extent of the damage will be realized and the costs calculated.

But for some workers and business owners, there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

BP, the main defendant in thousands of lawsuits for business economic losses for the accident, has agreed to put up a compensation fund of $20 billion. It is intended for those who suffered income losses when charter boat, hotel, tourist attraction, shrimp, oyster, fishing, restaurants and rental property businesses failed or shut down in the wake of the ecological disaster. Much of the economic activity in the coastline areas of the Gulf of Mexico depend on the tourists who used to flock to these areas in droves. With the coastline ruined and the once-famous Gulf shrimps shunned, a huge chunk of the income disappeared with the pelicans that once roosted on Cat Island by the thousands.

When the claims started pouring in, BP relegated the handling of them to the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, a third-party service provider that accepts and processes income loss as well as other claims. The types of damages that can be claimed include:

  • Damage to business or personal property
  • Diminished earnings and business profit losses
  • Wages and salaries of workers and employees of now defunct businesses
  • Personal injury and some health consequences on a case to case basis

If you have suffered income loss either as an employee or business owner, making a claim against this fund may be just what you need. It will be quicker than making a separate claim against BP directly. The wisdom of doing so, however, will depend on how much compensation you are seeking. If you are claiming less than $5,000 and that is the full sum of your income loss, then the compensation fund is the way to go. But if you have yet to determine the extent of the damage to your business or property, then it may not be a good idea. Accepting a lump-sum payment from this fund means you give up the right to sue BP later on for this particular accident, you see.

If you are in doubt if you should file a claim for income loss, consult with an oil spill lawyer in your area and give the facts of your situation. The experience of knowledge of an attorney who has handled and won cases like this before would be the best person to advise you on your best move at this point.