What Do I Need to Know About the Gulf Oil Spill Settlement?

What Do I Need to Know About the Gulf Oil Spill Settlement?

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What Do I Need to Know About the Gulf Oil Spill Settlement?

More than 10 years have passed since the disturbing images bombarded viewers. On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig experienced a massive explosion along the Gulf Coast. The explosion killed 11 workers and injured 17 more on the oil rig leased by British Petroleum (BP). In addition to the 11 fatalities and 17 injured workers, the explosion started an oil spill that lasted 87 days and pumped out more than three million gallons of oil into the highly-sensitive Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Oil pollution along the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida triggered six years of litigation and environmental conflicts.

Three months after the explosion, workers finally stopped the flow of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The non-stop news coverage highlighted the devastation left behind by the explosion, including the deaths of more than 105,000 sea birds that called the Gulf Coast home. Marine biologists estimated the dolphin population declined by around 50 percent.

Although the focus from the media fell on the loss of marine life, the oil spill leached into the beaches and wetlands stretching from near Galveston, Texas to Fort Myers, Florida. The spilled oil dramatically changed the reproductive cycles of both commercially and recreationally harvested fish. Commercial anglers estimated the oil spill permanently damaged the coastal economies of several communities. Numerous investigations analyzed the public health impact of the worst oil spill in American history.

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  • Did the Deepwater Horizon Explosion Lead to a Gulf Oil Spill Settlement?

    The result of the massive explosion aboard the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig generated considerable legal, economic, and political turmoil. Urgent calls for reforming the oil extraction industry came from politicians of both parties at the state and federal levels. Governors and legislators from the five hardest-hit states immediately went to work in an attempt to prevent an oil spill of this magnitude from ever happening again.

    On April 4, 2016, nearly six years after the massive explosions that took the lives of 11 workers, a Federal District judge approved the largest legal settlement for environmental damages in the history of the United States. The nearly $21 billion legal settlement stopped every civil and criminal complaint filed against the owners and operators of the oil rig, which were BP, Anadarko, Halliburton, and TransOcean. Five Gulf Coast states and their local governments received an undisclosed amount of economic damages as well.

    The class action lawsuit filed against the primary companies involved in the oil spill played a significant role in persuading the judge to approve the largest environmentally-driven financial award in American history.

  • Did the Gulf Oil Spill Settlement Include Punitive Damages?

    At the end of civil trials and class action lawsuits, judges hearing cases under both formats have the legal power to award punitive damages, which punish a defendant for committing one or more acts of negligence. Prosecuted under the Clean Water Act, the Gulf oil spill settlement resulted in the largest criminal penalty ever awarded for a single case in the history of the United States. In 2012, BP accepted a guilty plea on 14 felony counts that produced a fine that exceeded $4 billion. TransOcean also pleaded guilty to several criminal charges, which added $300,000 to a restoration fund established to clean up the oil spill, as well as implement preventive measures managed by the National Academies of Science and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

    Louisiana received more than half of the restoration funding, as the state experienced the most substantial economic and environmental damages.

  • What Does the Gulf Oil Spill Settlement Teach Us About Preventing Future Marine Disasters?

    Not only did the judge overseeing the class action lawsuit rule that BP had to pay civil and criminal penalties of more than $20 billion, but BP also had to foot the bill for more than $500 million in research and an estimated total of nearly $15 billion to settle private claims. The $500 million set aside for research covers 10 years of projects that determine how oil spills damage the environment and create unhealthy outcomes for residents of coastal communities such as Biloxi, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana.

  • What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?

    Filing a class action lawsuit permits a large number of plaintiffs to join the same civil lawsuit. Class action lawsuits provide plaintiffs with an advantage called “strength in numbers,” which judges can view favorably when deciding how much to award in monetary damages. Judges have the legal power to consolidate a large number of plaintiffs that file individual civil lawsuits for the same reason into one class action lawsuit.

  • What Are the Benefits of a Class Action Lawsuit?

    In addition to the “strength in numbers” principle, filing a class action lawsuit allows plaintiffs to pursue legal action that otherwise they would not have taken. Although monetary damages awarded for a class action lawsuit is distributed among every plaintiff, many class action lawsuits result in a judge demanding the defendant take corrective actions to prevent future similar events from unfolding.

    In the class action lawsuit filed against BP and the other primary companies involved in the Gulf oil spill settlement, the plaintiffs received less money than if they would have filed individual lawsuits. However, filing an individual lawsuit against a corporate giant such as BP would have been a risky move because of the vast legal resources BP would have accessed during individual civil trials.

  • What Are the Most Common Reasons Why Plaintiffs File Class Action Lawsuits?

    Plaintiffs file class action lawsuits for several reasons starting with cases that involve some type of environmental damage. The Deepwater Horizon explosion was not the first case BP faced for economic and environmental negligence. BP has compiled a record of settling civil cases that involved damaging local economies and fragile ecosystems. Other oil companies, as well as companies that manufacture toxic chemicals, also have participated as defendants in class action lawsuits.

    Other common types of class action lawsuits include cases that involve defective products. The Roundup and Johnson & Johnson talcum powder class action cases represent the most publicized class action lawsuits over the past 20 years. Companies that implement unlawful business practices also have faced a large number of class action litigation. Other common reasons for filing a class action lawsuit include false advertising, employee discrimination, and breach of contract.

  • How Do I Receive Compensation for a Class Action Lawsuit?

    The BP Gulf oil spill settlement provides us with an example of how plaintiffs receive compensation. Plaintiffs ranged from business owners to environmental foundations. BP paid monetary damages to settle the civil class action lawsuit, as well as punitive damages for committing one or more acts of negligence. The way each plaintiff received compensation depended on their preferences.

    The attorneys litigating a class action lawsuit receive the check that covers compensation. Referring to a formula approved by the judge overseeing a class action lawsuit, the team of litigators sends out individual checks to each member of the approved class. You can receive a check through the United States Postal Service (USPS) or have your settlement check directly deposited into your preferred bank account.

    Before you receive your class action settlement check, the team of attorneys receive their share of the agreed-upon contingency fee.

  • How Do I Initiate a Class Action Lawsuit?

    To initiate a class action lawsuit or to join one that has recently formed, you should consult with an attorney who specializes in litigating class action lawsuits. If the lawyer determines that you have enough persuasive evidence to initiate a class action lawsuit, the attorney files a formal claim with a civil court. The claim includes a section that asks the court to certify potential plaintiffs to form a class action lawsuit. After the certification of plaintiffs, other qualified plaintiffs have a certain amount of time to join the class action lawsuit.

  • How Do I Find the Best Class Action Attorney?

    If you want to start a class action lawsuit, such as the one that targeted BP and other companies, you need to know what to look for in the ideal class action lawyer.


    Working with an experienced class action attorney is important because class actions require different legal skills. Class action lawsuits are more complicated than the lawsuits filed by individual plaintiffs. An experienced class action attorney should specialize in handling class action lawsuits that cover the legal practice that defines your case. For example, plaintiffs of the BP class action lawsuit should have hired litigators that specialized in handling environmentally-driven class action lawsuits.

    Skilled Negotiator

    The group of attorneys representing the group of plaintiffs during a class action lawsuit should possess superior negotiating skills. Most defendants of class action lawsuits do not want their financial futures to depend on the decision made by a civil court judge hearing the case. The legal team representing the defendant or defendants sits down with your legal team to find the common ground required to reach a favorable settlement.

    Effective Communicator

    Lawyers tend to use a lot of complex legal language when describing principles and explaining different strategies. Class action lawsuits involve complex legal principles that you need to understand before the trial phase of the litigation process starts. The attorney you work with should be able to explain complex legal principles and strategies by using simple terms. An effective communicator also responds to emails, text messages, and voicemail messages shortly after receiving them.

  • Contact Morgan & Morgan

    Since 1988, the class action attorneys at Morgan & Morgan have litigated a wide variety of class action cases. We also have recovered more than $15 billion for our clients that filed individual civil lawsuits. One of the most important criteria to consider when searching for a class action lawyer is the feedback left by former clients. Client testimonials provide you with insight into the positive feedback left by our clients. You also can read the positive reviews our clients have left for us on sites such as Yelp and Google.

    You can trust a law firm that has received the highest reputation rating of A+ awarded by the Better Business Bureau (BBB). If you want to start a class action lawsuit or join one that has already formed, schedule a free case evaluation with Morgan & Morgan to determine the best course of legal action.

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