What You Should Know About Boat Damage Claims Under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA)

In light of some of the more current events affecting citizens of Louisiana, it is important to know and understand property rights resulting from personal property damages from oil spills. Especially in the Gulf region where this event seems to be more common than it should be, you may be entilted to compensation for damaged property. Most personal propety damage as a result of an oil spill will be compensated, but it becomes complex when boats become damaged from an oil spill.

Recently, we discussed the availability of funds under the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) and the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF) for compensating Louisiana residents who suffer property damage as the result of an oil spill. Claims for oil damage to boats are treated as a separate category from other types of personal property under the OPA.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center web site, the owner of a boat can submit a claim for the cost of removing oil stains from his vessel (including its interior furnishings like upholstery and carpeting) so that the boat is restored to its pre-fouled condition. Claims can also be filed for damage to mechanical parts of the boat, such as an outboard motor, rudder, anchor winch, etc. Oil spills can seriously impact the value of a boat and lead to substantial deterioration of the usability of a boat.

As with other property claims under the OPA, claimants must meet a series of specific requirements in order for their claims to be accepted by the National Pollution Funds Center. The claimant must prove that he owned or leased the boat at the time of the oil spill and must show that the vessel was damaged or destroyed by the oil and not some other event. The claimant must substantiate the value of the boat both before and after the oil spill as well as the costs to repair or replace the boat. The claim must contain evidence to support the value sought, which can include photographs of damage, the boat’s name and the date of the boat’s last hull painting, the year the boat was built or overhauled, the boat’s length, its hull material, a copy of boat’s title or other ownership documentation, the Vessel Identification Number, the location where boat was damaged by the oil, or the date and location that the boat was cleaned and/or repaired. It is impotant to keep detailed records of a boat in order to make sure your boat can be restored to full value before oil spill damage.

As with personal property and real property, boat owners have only three years to gather the necessary documentation and submit a claim under the OPA. If your boat has been damaged or destroyed by the Deep Horizon oil spill, you should not delay in contacting an attorney who is an expert in filing boat claims. You may be entilted substantial compensation to restore your boat to the original value. An attorney can assist in all aspects of the claims process, including locating boat appraisal professionals who can substantiate the dollar value of your loss.

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