BP, recently settling their criminal charges at a whopping $4 billion payout, has not moved past the court scene just yet. With trial scheduled to begin this week, BP runs the risk of exposure to what could be $17 billion in fines for violating the Clean Water Act.
The initial portion of the trial will focus on whether BP was grossly negligent in the maintenance and up keep of the rig. If this proves to be the case, BP will be facing seriously higher fines, as they were already found negligent in the criminal case (a less severe form of negligence resulting in smaller fines). The second portion of the trial will attempt to decipher exactly how much oil was dumped into the water of the Gulf Coast. Analysts are assuming this payout may be as low as $4.5 billion.
BP has already reached an agreement with the federal court on the economic loss side of damages inflicted on Gulf Coast communities. While BP is expected to pay out at least $7.8 billion to businesses who suffered the economic impacts of the oil spill, there is no cap on the amount that may be paid out. That being said, any business who files a valid and complete claim meeting causation will receive compensation according to the terms of the settlement program.
While the qualifications for meeting causation are objective, the program itself is complex and tricky. As of February 20th, approx. 60% of all claims submitted were deemed incomplete. The problem with this arises when the Claims Administrator notifies claimants that additional information/documentation is needed, and claimants are given a mere 30 days to respond. If this quick deadline is not met, the claim will be denied.