Complex Claims Process Confounds Spill Victims

Jenny Sherill and her husband Chris, who are owed money by BP for lost revenue from their beach wedding and catering company.
CBS
It's been a tough summer for Jenny Sherill and her husband Chris. They run a beach wedding and catering company in Gulf Shores, Ala. When oil began gushing, a dozen brides cancelled their plans and asked for their deposits back, reports CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

The Sherills have nothing left in their savings account.

"We're check to check, day by day," Chris Sherill told CBS News.

They filed a $42,000 claim with BP, and like thousands of others received a partial payment -- $10,000.

Special Section: Disaster in the Gulf

"There's been a lot of false advertising by BP stating that we've been taken care of down here," said Chris.

Now everyone with a claim has to refile with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility -- the $20 billion fund run by Washington attorney Kenneth Feinberg.

"It's as if BP never existed," said Feinberg. "We're starting over."

There are controversial new rules for refilling claims. For one, being farther from the Gulf could mean less money -- or none at all. Anne Stephens owns an RV park in Alabama seven miles from where oil washed ashore.

"All of our businesses are affected by the fact that our tourists are not here," said Stephens.

Those who agree to a final settlement with BP may have to waive their right to sue.

"There has been no decision made whatsoever, either by me or the facility, in terms of waiver of rights," said Feinberg. "Right now, we're talking about emergency payments."

"They want a 13 digit claims number and I only have a six digit number," said Jenny

No one picked up the helpline. So they tried the local BP claims office, with a new sign but the same retrained staff. An hour later, they're still not sure if they'll have a check in a week.

"I'm hopeful," said Jenny Sherill. "We'll just keep our fingers crossed and hope."

With 148,000 businesses and people still waiting for BP to make good on their losses -- there are a lot of crossed fingers.