Navigating an Oil Spill Claim
The worst has happened. Some vessel has run into another vessel, and the waterways where you used to sail or fish are now darkened with oil and full of tarballs. You are ready to file a lawsuit or claim and make some heads roll. However, it is important to realize that whoever spilled the oil will defend against your claims, and will try to get out of paying money any way they legally can. As such, you will have to be proactive in maintaining your claims, whatever they may be.
First, you may wish to seriously consider getting an experienced maritime attorney to guide you through the claims process. Oil spills are often resolved through complex statutory schemes, such as the Oil Pollution Act, which have many hoops to jump through and tight deadlines. What is more, courts in ongoing oil spill litigation may assert their own deadlines and requirements for victims, and missing these requirements may bar your claims. An experienced oil spill attorney will help you to take the right steps to protect your claims so you can get the money you deserve.
Second, document your damages from the beginning of the case. If you have a boat that has been oiled, take some pictures of the damage before getting it fixed, get quotes for repair, keep repair receipts, and do whatever you can do to show that you have sustained monetary damages (an attorney can help pinpoint what you should do). If you are a fisherman who has to travel a hundred miles out of the way to fish to avoid the oil, keep your travel receipts, extra supply receipts and any other documentation showing that you had to go out of the way, as well as business records showing that you are not catching as much fish as you could before the spill. If you want to get money back from an oil spill, you are going to have to present proof that you sustained some damages. Lack of proof may lead to your case being dismissed.
Third, try to take actions to limit your damages, if possible. If you are an oil spill victim, you cannot do things which unnecessarily drive up your damages and expect compensation. For example, if you are a fisherman who cannot fish in an area due to an oil spill and you are incurring expenses to travel to a new area 100 miles away, you may not be able to be fully compensated if you decide you like that spot and keep fishing there for months after the oil in your regular spot is cleaned up. Also, if you have an oiled boat, you may not be able to be fully compensated if you throw a bunch of unnecessary and unrelated repairs onto the de-oiling. People sometimes try to do this stuff, and courts and the attorneys for whoever spilled the oil will be on the lookout for anyone trying to pull a fast one in the case of an oil spill.
The above list is not a complete guide as to what oil spill victims should do; it is simply a few good ideas for making sure that the claims of oil spill victims do not become invalidated. Due to the complexity of oil spill law, nothing can replace the guidance and advice of a good, experienced maritime attorney.
If you or a loved one have been injured, Call Carabin Shaw at 1.800.862.1260. We Can Help.