New BP Claims Process Will Launch In Wake Of Proposed Settlement

A new BP claims process will be launched in the wake of the proposed settlement agreement that was announced Friday in a massive lawsuit over the devastating and historic Deepwater Horizon spill

On April 20, 2010, an explosion aboard the oil rig located about 60 miles off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico set off a raging inferno that killed 11 workers at the site. The blaze persisted until the rig suffered a partial collapse, rupturing several massive wells, which fed the rig.

The world watched underwater camera footage of raw crude oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for months through the summer of that year; at least 200 million gallons of oil eventually emptied into the sea, home to countless indigenous species of shellfish and other aquatic life and the source of business and employment for tens of thousands of people living along the coast from Texas to Florida. Several attempts to cap one well were documented and most resulted in failure.

Now, said NPR, the trial scheduled to determine liability, set to start today in New Orleans, was called off when, late Friday, BP and some plaintiffs announced a settlement. Full agreement has not been released and requires court approval. Also, the rest of the plaintiffs could opt for a trial.

NPR said that some of the settlement details include that BP will pay about $7.8 billion; however, plaintiff attorneys note there is no cap on the amount and they may seek more money for their clients. The settlement also allegedly involved a change in how claims will be processed. A court-supervised claims process will replace the Gulf Coast Claims Facility run by Kenneth Feinberg.

The proposed settlement has two facets, according to an Associated Press report. The first component of the settlement compensates private economic losses incurred by individuals or businesses due to the Gulf oil spill. The second component of the settlement compensates people with medical claims related to the spill and provides periodic medical consultation for the next 21 years. Claimants are eligible to participate in either or both settlement funds. To receive compensation for health claims, claimants require a court-approved health care practitioner exam with a claims administrator working under federal judge supervision.

This settlement does not settle all claims, but does represent the largest group to settle, so far, with more than 100,000 people hurt by the spill—mostly those in the seafood and tourism industries, said NPR. Gulf Coast States and the federal government still have claims, and those federal claims could cost billions more if the government can prove BP was grossly negligent. Also, disputes with Transocean and Halliburton must be worked out, as do issues regarding how to allocate funds, pointed out NPR.

We long explained that thousands of people living or working along or in the Gulf of Mexico continue to suffer daily, either because they’ve been forced out of work or are forced to live with disabling side effects related to the work to clean the oil spill from the water and beaches during and after the spill. The new system is meant to monitor health concerns and compensate people whose illnesses are linked to the massive spill, said the Herald Net.

Meanwhile, government and university physicians who have studied the health of those impacted by the spill say they have been unable to reveal evidence of illnesses related to the spill; however, future and illness remains an open issue, said the Herald Net. National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Health Sciences studies are in early stages.

“We are trying to pinpoint exposure and unravel those complex questions,” said Maureen Litchveld, a lead researcher at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. “Two of the most persistent concerns are those about seafood safety and if the air is safe to breathe,” she told the Herald Net. Some are doctors say they treat workers and residents for chemical exposure over issues blamed on the spill. Dr. Mike Robichaux, a nose and throat specialist in Raceland, Louisiana, told Health Net that he has treated 50 people for health problems he says were caused by exposure to chemicals released during the spill. “The illnesses are very real, and the people who are ill are apparently people who have sensitivities to these substances that not all of us are sensitive to,” Dr. Robichaux told the Herald Net.

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