On Friday, August 10th, Chevron opened a storefront in Richmond to serve as a makeshift claims office for residents who suffered personal injury after the fire at their refinery on Monday.
The claims office already served 3,000 people on its opening day, a testament not only to the extensive minor personal harm like aggravated sinuses and irritated eyes, but also to the fear the refinery inspires in the neighborhood. Richmond residents do not like having Chevron as their neighbor, despite the oil company’s outreach efforts.
Melissa Ritchie, a spokes person for Chevron, said that the company wants to make things right in the neighborhood. Part of the current claims process, she said, would not involve a waiver, so residents could still file for further personal injury if they discovered later that they continued to suffer from harmful chemicals released into the air. “People who are paid claims don’t have to sign any kind of waiver that precludes any future legal action, and there is no limit on the claim as long as documentation shows an amount.”
The Bay Area Quality Management District re-assessed the site of the fire and on Thursday revised its previous statement about the air quality. The District now says that levels of acrolein, a pollutant found around refineries, are above the federally recommended level. That means residents could suffer further health complications weeks or even months after the fire.
In previous personal injury scenarios, Chevron had residents file claims over the phone. That service is also still available.
Richmond residents run the gamut of responses to the crisis. Several are seeking up-front damage compensation, for hospital bills and prescriptions. However, many more are waiting for the dust to settle and file a legal claim against the oil giant.
According to SF Gate, one resident, who referred to himself only as “The Cowboy,” said, “These claims are just a small stipend for dumb people.” He cited medical concerns, both for him and his child.
Another resident, Chanel Harris, said, “It’s not about the money. It’s about holding Chevron accountable.” She decided to take advantage of the makeshift claims office to do that.
It is difficult, in these personal injury situations, to know the best course of action. Since Chevron is offering money upfront, residents with immediate medical costs might be tempted to take advantage of the payout. However, although a spokesperson has said that there are no waivers, accepting money upfront could complicate any lawsuits that might be necessary later. Generally, the recommended course of action in a personal injury situation is to get immediate medical attention for any immediate symptoms, but then wait and see if any additional symptoms come up. That could mean further medical attention for a more serious problem, which could lead to large medical bills and lost wages. If you have questions about a potential personal injury lawsuit, the experienced lawyers at Strom Law, LLC, offer free consultations to assess your claim. Please contact us today, and we will help you on the road to recovery. 803.252.4800.