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Thousands of people have been adversely affected by the oil disaster off the Gulf of Mexico. Fishing, crabbing, and tourism industries in and around the Gulf, and even businesses down in Florida (FL) are suffering economically because of the oil leak. In response to this catastrophe, the Mississippi State Bar released a “Disaster Legal Information Guide” to help residents and local business people in the region understand their rights.

One of the most telling excerpts in this guide states, “Do not assume any individual is looking out for your best interest…Be cautious in dealing with representatives of companies involved in a catastrophic disaster. Also, be cautious in dealing with insurance adjusters or other insurance company employees. Be particularly careful before signing any papers that promise payment of a given sum of money.”

Could this be a subtle jab at British Petroleum (BP) lawyers trying to take advantage of local residents and fishermen in the region? Maybe. A team of BP lawyers and officials were sent to the Gulf region hoping to get local business owners to sign documents saying they would not sue BP. In exchange, BP would pay a claim under $5,000 and/or offer employment to clean up the oil spill. Yes, you read that correctly. BP wants to pay fishermen to clean up the oil spill that decimated the industry they worked in.

Fortunately, the media caught wind of these actions and BP quickly stopped this dubious practice, but that doesn’t mean BP will permanently end their quest to reduce liability.

I strongly recommend reading the Disaster Guide so you are fully informed about your legal rights and don’t get trapped into one of these agreements with BP, or any other company trying to avoid liability.


About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (NC-VA law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard, Virginia Beach Injuryboard, and Norfolk Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.

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