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Months after gusher, oil spill fund chief weighs damage claims

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Feinberg says every claim submitted will be evaluated
  • Many of the claims filed do not have the necessary documentation behind them, he says
  • Those who accept lump-sum payments waive their rights to sue BP
  • Some say the payout system is unfair

(CNN) -- Dentists, chiropractors and veterinarians are among the 450,000 people who requested money from the fund for victims of the BP oil spill before this week's emergency claims deadline, the fund's administrator told CNN on Friday.

"When you get a claim from a golf course 100 miles from the spill, or you get claims, as we have, from dentists, chiropractors, veterinarians, all asking for money, there's going to have to be some eligibility restrictions in place," said attorney Kenneth Feinberg, the man in charge of BP's $20 billion fund.

Businesses and individuals had until Tuesday to submit an application for an emergency payment from the fund. Every claim submitted will be examined and evaluated, Feinberg said.

"But I'm really going to reserve the eligibility criteria and the bulk of this money for injured victims along that coast, who really were ... victims of the oil spill," he said.

The undersea gusher erupted with an April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drill rig, which was completing a well for the oil giant BP at the time of the blast. The rig sank two days later, taking 11 men to a watery grave and unleashing the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The well was sealed temporarily in mid-July and capped permanently on September 19. In the meantime, it crippled businesses and people that relied on Gulf waters to earn a living.

Already, Feinberg said the independent Gulf Coast Claims Facility that he heads has paid out about $2.2 billion in eligible claims.

But many of the claims filed -- possibly up to 100,000 -- don't have the necessary documentation behind them, he said.

For example, a fisherman can't claim a $30,000 loss with only a fishing license attached as proof.

Those who have eligible claims and choose to accept lump-sum payments waive their rights to sue BP or anyone else connected to the rig explosion and oil spill, Feinberg said.

"If you feel that you're not ready to give up that fight, and you want to not waive your rights yet, you can take quarterly interim payments for documented damage, and not release any rights to sue," he added.

But that option, detailed for the first time Wednesday, hasn't silenced some critics of Feinberg, like Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, who claim the payout system isn't fair.

Asked whether he was glad he accepted the job of doling out dollars to oil spill victims, Feinberg -- who handled a similar federal fund for 9/11 victims -- chuckled.

"No good deed goes unpunished," he told CNN.

CNNMoney's Catherine Clifford contributed to this report.