Embattled BP CEO Tony Hayward asserted that his company has paid “every claim” for damages caused by the offshore-drilling disaster that is flooding the Gulf of Mexico with millions of gallons of toxic oil. In an interview with BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday, Hayward lauded the BP claims processing procedure, claiming it only takes “48 hours” to get a check, instead of “what has taken 45 days traditionally in the United States.” He asserted unequivocally that “every claim” has been paid:
Well, you know, what we have done so far is to pay every claim that’s been presented to us, and we will continue to do that. You know, the most important thing in terms of claims today is to ensure that people who can’t fish today have the wherewithal to feed their families. And we’ve taken a claims process that has taken 45 days traditionally in the United States and shortened it to 48 hours. It takes 12 seconds when you phone the BP claims line to be put into the process, be given a number. If you turn up at the claims office, within 48 hours you’re given a cheque. You take it to a bank and you cash the cheque. We are going to continue to do that.
In fact, less than half of the claims have been paid. For the entire Gulf Coast, BP has paid 18,000 out of 37,000 claims, Darryl Willis, the BP vice president overseeing the claims process, said Sunday. BP has denied repeated requests from the state of Louisiana for access to its claims database, but did release a summary that showed the majority of claims in Louisiana, the hardest hit state, are still pending:
— As of May 29, only $22.5 million had been paid on 6,997 claims; 51 percent remain pending, at least one for as long as 33 days. The majority of paid claims are property damage.
— Only one of 118 bodily injury claims has been paid.
— Of $9.1 million in claims for loss of income in Louisiana, 54 percent were pending as of May 29. Of 7,469 claims filed by individuals and businesses for loss of income, BP has paid just 3,438 claims.
— Of 37 claims categories ranging from loss of income for shrimpers, crabbers, oyster processors and fishermen to loss of rental property income and damage to animals and property, 26 categories have 70 percent or more of unpaid claims. For commercial loss of income, 57 percent of claims are unpaid.
— Less than 25 percent of business interruption claims have been paid.
“Hardworking people should not be forced into poverty by the oil spill,” said Louisiana Workforce Commission Executive Director Curt Eysink. The more BP delays and dissembles, the harder it is for the foreign oil giant’s victims to get their lives back.
In a press briefing moments ago, National Incident Commander Adm. Thad Allen was asked what he would like to see BP do that it is currently not doing. “We’d like them to get better at claims,” he responded, adding, “We’ll have a meeting with BP and try to simplify their ability to actually handle claims from businesses. They don’t have a history of that company doing that type of work. They brought in contractors and claims adjusters but we think it needs to be better and quicker.”