North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Experts Debate Implications of $100 Million Oil Rig Compensation Fund

July 28, 2010, by Michael A. DeMayo

North Carolina workers’ compensation policy experts have largely been absent from the debate over how the Obama administration and BP’s $100 million workers’ compensation fund will be dispersed to rig workers rendered temporarily unemployed (or underemployed) by the recently imposed moratorium on off-shore drilling (due to end in November). That said, local pundits, fisherman, and policy wonks have been keeping a close eye on the unfolding story. This article can give you some background and introduce you to key points being discussed.


Pursuant to the massive BP oil well spill – which this blog actually covered just weeks after the explosion happened – the Obama administration imposed a moratorium on offshore drilling to prevent additional catastrophes similar to what happened to the Deepwater Horizon. Unfortunately, by imposing this moratorium, the administration essentially put thousands of oil rig workers on a forced hiatus. To compensate these workers and others harmed by the spill, the White House assigned Ken Feinberg to administer a $20 billion Oil Spill Fund. (In case you don’t recall, Feinberg was the same man who administered the reparation fund for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.) Although Feinberg has promised to be very lenient as to the proof that he and his team will require to grant compensation, many industry workers are confused. And employers and workers in peripheral industries – even way up here in North Carolina – also must contend with uncertainty and work slowdowns associated indirectly with the BP spill.

In short, North Carolina workers’ compensation experts are busy trying to figure out whether — if at all — the BP spill money will translate to compensation for NC employees and others glancingly impacted. One school of thought – the predominant one – says that the oil spill will have a negligible effect, since it’s so far away. Another theory suggests that the spill will have a domino effect, essentially ricocheting through the economy of states that touch the Gulf and Mid Atlantic. In either case, unless you are directly working on a rig or directly impacted by this spill, it’s unlikely that you will be able to collect from the nationally established fund. But this doesn’t mean that the spill won’t affect you in indirect ways.

The key is to figure out what’s in your circle of control and influence. What can you personally do to improve your chances of collecting North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits in a timely fashion and to work around obstacles thrown up by your employer, the North Carolina Industrial Commission or an insurance company?

To that end, you will likely need legal guidance. Trust your case to a veteran North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney – one who has handled many similar kinds of cases in the past successfully.

More Web Resources:

North Carolina Industrial Commission

BP’s $100 million workers’ compensation fund