On April 20, 2010, disaster struck in the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig, located on the Macondo Prospect, exploded—killing 11 people and causing the largest accidental marine oil spill in history. Oil gushed for more than 85 days after the initial explosion, with BP engineers finally capping the well on July 15, 2010. By then, according to the U.S. Government, roughly 210 million U.S. gallons had been spilled.
The Deepwater Horizon was a semi-submersible mobile offshore drilling unit. The rig was built by Hyundai Heavy Industries and owned by Transocean; BP chartered it for the Macondo Prospect and was expecting to use it from 2008 to 2013. The rig had only been in service for nine years.
The explosion occurred around 9:45 p.m. CDT with 126 crew members aboard. According to workers who were there, the lights began to flicker, which was followed by strong quaking. The initial explosion on the rig was followed by a fire that lasted for more than a day. On April 22 at approximately 10:20 a.m., the Coast Guard reported the oil rig had sunk.
In the aftermath of the explosion and fire, 115 people were evacuated. Initially, 12 to 15 people were reported missing; however, that number was later reduced to 11. A massive rescue operation was launched by the U.S. Coast Guard that included two cutters, four helicopters, and a rescue plan. Despite these best efforts, the 11 missing crew were never found. In total, 16 people were injured by the blast.
Following the tragic accident, the government launched several investigations while private entities made investigations of their own. In one of these, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce stated that BP should have tested the cement. BP released its own findings in September 2010, where they stated that a pressure test had been incorrectly interpreted by both BP and Transocean, with several warning signs being neglected and ignored by both companies.
Later that year in November, the Oil Spill Commission reported its findings. While they stated that BP had not outright violated safety protocols, they did note that several decisions had increased risk. As Co-Chair Billy Reilly said, "there was not a culture of safety on that rig." One heavily criticized decision was BP's refusal to add more centralizers, despite recommendations to do so.
On April 22, two days after the initial explosion, an oil leak was discovered following the emergence of a large oil slick. For the next 87 days, oil continued to flow at an estimated rate of 1,000 to 5,000 barrels per day. Two months after the leak was spotted, oil began to wash up on the shores of the Gulf States, with the oil spreading further and further as time went on. Satellite images have shown that the spill spread to roughly 68,000 square miles.
The effects of the oil spill have been enormous. In terms of the environment, animal deaths skyrocketed, including approximately 61 dolphins and other mammals, 2,000+ birds, and 450+ sea turtles. This has led to the threatening of 8 national parks, as well as putting 400 species at risk. In the wake of the oil spill, there has also been a disturbing rise in mutated fish.
The health consequences have been severe for local residents and workers, including exposure to:
This toxic exposure has had serious effects, including neurological, eye, and respiratory problems. By June 2010, nearly 150 exposure cases related to the BP oil spill had been reported to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, with the majority involving workers involved in the clean-up efforts. One report noted that there were more than 700 people who had sought medical services with complaints in the Gulf.
While the environmental and health consequences have been severe, there have also been long-lasting financial problems for people who work and live in the Gulf. This has impacted business owners who had to deal with an interruption of their business, as well as those involved in different industries ranging from fishing to manufacturing to tourism. In these cases, it is possible to file a claim for just compensation.
BP established a $20 billion trust fund to settle claims related to the incident. This agreement came on June 16, 2010 following a meeting with President Obama. Executives agreed to put $3 billion into the fund during the third quarter of 2010, followed by $2 billion during the fourth quarter, followed by $1.25 billion per quarter until the fund reached the maximum of $20 billion. Until then, BP posted its assets as bond.
"We are taking full responsibility for the spill and we will clean it up and where people can present legitimate claims for damages we will honor them " - BP CEO Tony Hayward.
The fund started accepting claims in August 2010 through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility. By the time it was handed over to Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, more than $375 million had already been paid with nearly 19,000 claims submitted within the first week. More than 1,000 of those initial claims were compensated, while the rest were claimed to be missing necessary paperwork.
Since its inception, more than one million claims have been processed and more than $6 billion has been paid out; almost all of compensated claimants have been in the Gulf States. Since then, the settlement of claims has been transitioned over to a court-supervised settlement program that is responsible for $9.6 billion of the total fund. Claims were anticipated to be accepted through April 2014. As of 2013, it is believed that the total payments from the fund have amounted to roughly $19.7 billion.
Once the fund has been depleted, all future claims will come from BP's future profits.
If the BP oil spill has negatively impacted you—regardless of whether you are an individual, resident, or business—you need an advocate. There are tough questions that you need to address, which we at Arnold & Itkin can help you with. We help determine whether your case is more suited for filing a claim under the compensation fund, if it would be better to file a lawsuit, or even if there is an existing class action that you could join. Due to the complexity of BP oil spill claims, it is crucial that you talk to an attorney.
Arnold & Itkin represented nearly a third of the crewmembers injured in the Deepwater Horizon explosion. To learn more what they thought about working with our firm, watch the video below:
At our law firm, we are proud to have advocated for people facing a variety of problems related to the BP oil spill—regardless of whether they involved maritime, injury, or business law. Having recovered tens of billions of dollars on behalf of our clients, our past results speak for themselves. No matter what you're facing, no matter how big your opponent, no matter how complex the situation—we'll be there to fight for you.
No matter what.
Contact us today to learn your legal options in a free consultation: (888) 346-5024.
Arnold & Itkin represented nearly a third of the crewmembers injured in the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Because maritime law is so complex and so complicated, it is crucial that you work with an attorney who has an in-depth understanding of how it works and who has proven themselves in similar cases before.