In the coming years--possibly decades--BP is sure to encounter an onslaught of lawsuits. Cases can be made for contractual, wrongful death and injury, environmental and commercial losses. There are thousands of potential plaintiffs confronted with different levels of economic harm. The oil spill also occurred in an area that is much more populated and economically active than Alaska, the site of the infamous Exxon Valdez spill.
As of now, 74 cases have been filed in federal courts, 38 of which were filed by the U.S. District Court of New Orleans. Several of these are wrongful death suits; others aim for class action certification. More will certainly arise as the spill hasn't actually finished spilling.