On Feb. 11, the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit cleared the way for thousands of individuals in the Gulf affected by the BP oil spill and dispersants to begin receiving compensation for medical treatment. All to the tune of $9.2 billion from BP's spill settlement.
Claimants will have one year to submit a claim from Feb. 12 of this year, the "Effective Date", according to the Court.
This is separate from payments resulting from a broader economic damages settlement currently being decided in the civil trial.
On its website, the Court states that it dismissed the remaining appeals to the Medical Benefits Settlement. Judge Carl Barbier and his fellow judges signed off on this.
Neither BP nor the plaintiffs know exactly how much will be distributed in medical settlement claims. Claimants can receive compensation for treatment for everything from rashes to respiratory problems, as the Times-Picayune aptly reports.
The April 2010 disaster that killed 11 rig workers and dumped millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf was horrific enough in itself; but following this Corexit, a dispersant banned in Britain, was doused in generous proportions throughout affected areas.
The effects to the Gulf are numerous and still indeterminate - everything from human illnesses such as liver damage, rashes, shortness of breath, even cancer - to destruction of coral reefs and sickening of fish, birds and the marshes.
While the use of Corexit was considered a preferable solution than coating the Gulf coast with oil, no doubt, the billions spent paying for illnesses it caused may prove that decision questionable.
For its part, BP has set up a "fraud hotline" to "help protect the integrity of the claims process."
In the Class Action Settlement, the Times Picayune reports:
The program is uncapped, though payments will vary depending on class member. Cleanup workers are eligible for the most money, up to $60,700, while resident payments will range from $900 to $36,950. Additional payments will be available for specific hospital expenses.
In Oct. of 2010, a few months after the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, Judge Barbier handpicked 15 lawyers to serve on the Plaintiffs Steering Committee. Called the "PSC", the committee is designed to represent the injured parties of the Gulf.
Lawyers come from not only Louisiana but other parts of the country.
For more information, access the Deepwater Hozizon Medical Settlement web site.