Personal injuries resulting from toxic exposure can persist years or decades after the initial incident. Corporations need to be held accountable for damages.
Online PR News – 04-August-2010 – – Twenty-one years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska, the wildlife and people of that region are still struggling to recover. This year another massive oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving that entire region reeling from its severe effects on people, wildlife, and the environment.
The impact on the Gulf region is staggering. To date, between 93.5 million and 184.3 million gallons of oil has spilled into the Gulf. Regardless of the precise amount, there is no doubt that the impact will be extensive. In the past, the Louisiana seafood industry contributed 2.4 billion dollars a year to the Gulf coast economy, but this entire industry is now in jeopardy. The BP oil spill already has required 2,200 beach closings, health advisories, and notices in the region, compared with just 237 issued last year. According to the U.S. Travel Association, Gulf tourism may lose $22.7 billion dollars due to the effects of the oil spill.
The significant destruction caused by oil spills raises questions about victims’ rights to compensation when corporate negligence damages their quality of life and causes personal injury. It is clear that the BP oil spill is directly threatening the health and safety of citizens.
For example, the workers assigned to the oil cleanup crews must risk dangerous exposure to oil, chemical dispersants, and other cleaning products, which could cause skin or internal damage. Landowners in the Gulf region, whose property values have plummeted, must deal with toxic materials leaking into their drinking water and leaching into their soil.
While BP is stopping the flow of oil, it also must address its massive liability to people along the Gulf coast. So far, the corporation set aside 32.2 billion dollars to cover these costs. The BP chairman, Carl-Henric Svanberg, acknowledged that its cost estimates assumed that BP was not grossly negligent and that its actual liability could be higher.
As of July 27, BP had paid only 36,000 of 131,000 damage claims, but would not pay the remaining claims, without additional documentation.
Fortunately, Kenneth Feinberg will take over the claim process from BP later in August. Feinberg, who previously administered the compensation program for September 11th victims, promised quicker and more substantial emergency payments, to cover up to six months of expected losses. He testified at a recent Congressional committee hearing that he will “bend over backwards to help anybody who claims lost wages or lost business in an all-cash business.”
The legal options of oil spill victims will depend on the nature of their claims and the conditions under which they accept payments from the BP compensation fund. Those who get emergency payments to cover short-term losses will probably retain the right to file lawsuits later. However, people who accept long-term settlements, which cover all projected future damages caused by the spill, will have to give up the right to sue. On the other hand, those who are not satisfied with settlement offers and reject proposed payments could pursue their claims in arbitration or in court.
While the plight of the Gulf region is capturing the attention of the nation, Michigan has also suffered its share of environmental disasters due to corporate negligence.
In mid-Michigan, the Dow Chemical plant continues to threaten personal injury to nearby residents. For years, the plant dumped cancer-causing dioxins into the Tittabawassee River. These contaminants spread into the Saginaw River, its floodplains, and portions of Midland and Lake Huron's Saginaw Bay, endangering thousands of families living in the area. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirms that independent studies show that, even at low levels, dioxins can cause cancer as well as disrupt immune and reproductive systems.
Just a few days ago, the failure of an oil pipeline caused a massive oil spill in the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan. The 30-inch pipeline, owned by a Canadian energy company, Enbridge, Inc., was built over 40 years ago and carried about 8 million gallons of oil every day from Griffith, Indiana to Sarnia, Ontario. According to preliminary estimates, the break in the pipeline spilled almost a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River. Emergency response crews are doing everything possible to prevent the oil from reaching Lake Michigan, which is only 80 miles away.
"Corporations should be held responsible for personal injury damages caused by their mistakes, oversights, or negligence. Environmental poisoning can have lasting, harmful effects on the health of people for generations. It's crucial that any company profiting from practices that can potentially harm people and the environment be held accountable," said Michigan personal injury attorney Mark Bernstein.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries caused by corporate negligence, you should protect your legal rights by contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer today.