"BP will begin its legal offensive this month to cap its liabilities from the Gulf of Mexico disaster by offering those affected one-off compensation payouts in return for them waiving the right to sue.
US lawyers say tens of thousands of affected people in the Gulf, particularly those in the fishing and tourism industries, are weeks away from bankruptcy.
BP, which will try to permanently seal the Macondo well with a "static kill" operation on Tuesday, hopes that settling claims in this way will help it to begin to draw a line under the crisis and to quantify the costs.
But lawyers say it is impossible to calculate future lost earnings. There is also no way for claimants to know whether they would receive more compensation if they decided to sue BP in the courts, which would take many months with no guarantee of success. Brent Coon, a Houston-based lawyer, said: "These are mostly uneducated people."
Applicants could rush to apply for a one-off, lump sum payout if they believe that BP will run out of money or will put its US business into bankruptcy."
Tim Webb reports for the Guardian August 1, 2010.