BP pledges healthcare for first-line fishermen and communitiesMar 13th, 2012 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: news
BP said it expects to pay out $7.8 billion in claims under the settlement announced March 2, which includes claims for property damage, lost wages, loss to businesses, and health issues— a new addition to the case.
Belle Chasse attorney and member of the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, Phil Cossich says this is a huge victory for the community.
“The new health clause covers something as simple as headaches, nose bleeds, skin and eye irritations, and it also sets up a Regional Health Outreach program,” Cossich explained.
Those whose physical symptoms have not yet developed will also be able to pursue claims, and BP has promised to dedicate $105 million to this Regional Health Outreach program.
Additionally, Cossich said the settlement creates a program to monitor claimants’ health for a period of 21 years, “which is incredible,” he added enthusiastically.
This new addition of health claims to the settlement is a step in the right direction for Plaquemines Parish residents who felt their spill-related illnesses were not getting acknowledged.
Gulf Coast Claims Facility, the previous compensation fund, received nearly 200 claims alleging spill-related illnesses, but none were compensated. Cossich says that the new settlement “will be better and more transparent than the GCC.”
The $7.8 billion is an uncapped amount, meaning if the actual settlement costs exceed that initial figure, BP will be responsible for paying any subsequent amount. However, BP put out a statement emphasizing their certainty that the amount will not exceed $7.8 billion, and that $2.3 billion of the settlement is specifically for Gulf seafood industry claimants.
“That clause covers first-line commercial fisherman,” Cossich stated. “Both captains and deckhands. BP is also responsible for property damage, loss of sales, and damage to wetlands.”
Cossich also explained that plaintiff’s will not be responsible for attorney’s fees, something that is sure to please many claimants. “BP will pay attorney’s fees. The fees will not come of out the claimant’s portion.”
In a recent press release, lead attorneys for the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, Stephen Herman and James Roy, asserted the new settlement would be transparent and under strict judicial oversight.
“This settlement will provide a full measure of compensation to hundreds of thousands — in a transparent and expeditious manner under rigorous judicial oversight,” said the attorneys in their March 3 statement. “It does the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people.”
In regards to their $105 million pledge to improve Gulf coast health care, BP explained in a press release that this new initiative includes all Gulf Coast communities and residents, even those who are not plaintiffs in the settlement.
“This healthcare outreach program would be available to all individuals in those communities, regardless of whether they are class [action suit] members,” said BP. “It would include expanding capacity to address community health needs, including primary care, mental health services and access to environmental health specialists, as well as enhanced training and education related to Gulf Coast health issues.”
Cossich advises claimants seeking compensation to, if they have not already, contact their attorneys. “I would advise them to call their lawyers and make sure they are on top of it.”