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January 18, 2013

Time is running out on Gulf Coast seafood industry to claim a share of the $2.3 billion fund

by: Joseph F. Rice

The Dec. 21, 2012, order of Judge Barbier sets the deadline for filing a Seafood Compensation Claim under the Economic and Property Damages Class Action Settlement. Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, is the last day to file.

WHO IS COVERED

The Seafood Compensation Program falls under the wave of the Economic and Property Damages Class Action Settlement, but it is actually a special, separate $2.3 billion fund specifically designed to fairly compensate eligible economic damage claims of:

  • Commercial fishermen
  • Oyster leaseholders
  • Seafood boat captains
  • Seafood crew
  • Seafood vessel owners

Both the settlement and claims website have detailed descriptions explaining who is covered. Some claimants may be eligible to make multiple claims under the Seafood Compensation Program (this program is only for claimants who lost income and does not cover subsistence claims).

EARLY CLAIMS DEADLINE

Because the program is separate, it also has an earlier claims deadline and bar date. The deadline to submit a claim(s) is Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. But don’t jump ship- there is still time to file your claim(s)!

ELIGIBLE CLAIMS

Remember the program is designed to compensate the losses of those whose income depended on harvesting seafood from Gulf waters affected by the oil spill. Some may surprise you. For example:

  • If you owned, leased or worked on a seafood vessel that fished in the specified Gulf waters (and that vessel was home ported or landed its catch in one of the specified Gulf Coast areas during or after the oil spill) you may have a claim under this program.
  • Holders of oyster leases and individual fishing quotas in the specified Gulf waters may also have claims.
  • The claims process includes species-specific plans for shrimp, oysters, finfish and blue crab/other seafood. Owners of seafood vessels, commercial fisherman who lease seafood vessels and boat captains of these vessels may submit claims under the species-specific plans. Each plan is intended to recognize and compensate factors unique to harvesting each species. There is also a separate framework tailored to the claims of seafood crew members.

Both the settlement and claims website have detailed descriptions explaining who is covered under the Seafood Compensation Program. One notable exception is that claims related to menhaden fishing are not covered by this program. Figuring out whether you may have an eligible claim may not be as easy as shooting a fish in a barrel, but there are great resources and people available to help you.

PAYMENT

Payments on claims vary according to the type of claimant, the seafood category and the type of documentation submitted. Generally, qualifying claimants receive a lump sum payment that includes a base amount calculated by comparison to historical earnings and also a multiplier accounting for future risk and other factors. Claims are paid on a rolling basis as they are received and approved. A unique feature of the Seafood Compensation Program is that qualifying claimants are paid twice.

  • Claimants receive the compensation calculated for their claims.
  • The full amount remaining in the $2.3 billion fund after qualifying claims have been paid is distributed among all of the qualifying claimants. Every claimant whose claim qualifies for payment is entitled to a share of this second distribution.

** This dual payment structure is the reason for the different, earlier claims deadline. Because the second round of payments cannot be made until all claims are processed, the earlier, Jan. 22, 2013, deadline enables prompt distribution of the full $2.3 billion fund.

FILE YOUR CLAIM(S)

Although the deadline is fast approaching, there is still time to file a claim.

  • Claims can be submitted online or in person or by mail, e-mail or fax.
  • To file a claim, you will need to (this is timely) submit a claim form and relevant supporting documentation.
  • If you have not yet filed a claim under the settlement, you will also need to fill out a registration form.
  • To prepare your claim more quickly, you should first read through the claim form and go through your records for any supporting documentation. In some cases, sworn statements can be used instead of records if they are not available.
  • You can download instructions booklets, claim forms, and registration forms on the Claims Administration website.

I know that the program can seem overwhelming at first for those who are not familiar with the settlement, but remember that the claims process doesn't have to be a whale of a project for you. For help, the Claims Administrator has set up Claimant Assistance Centers around the Gulf Coast, which have a toll-free number for your convenience. Our attorneys have also been working with many people and businesses along the Gulf Coast to help them navigate the claims process and seek fair compensation for their losses. We have information about the Seafood Compensation Program on our website and welcome you to contact us if you need help or have questions.

The deadline is Tuesday of next week, so get those claims in!

Claim Office Website: www.deepwaterhorizoneconomicsettlement.com