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BP & The Health Settlement Details… Many Questions, Some Answered

March 14, 2012

The health settlement negotiated between BP and private plaintiff attorneys makes thousands of new people eligible for compensation from the oil spill. But what exactly are the medical problems that qualify for reimbursement? Does everyone who needs treatment qualify? What degree of exposure to the disaster do victims have to have?

The health program is available to 90,000 people including cleanup workers, government workers, costal residents and wetland residents who lived within a mile of wetlands for at least six months between the day of the accident and the end of 2010, though it is not clear who qualifies as a spill responder. Also, people who became ill after vacationing at the beach do not qualify and would need to file their own suit.

The health deal makes tens of thousands of people who could not file health claims under the Gulf Coast Claims Facility eligible to do so under the settlement.

Compensation for specified physical conditions include people who experienced things such as skin problems, respiratory problems, eye irritation, headaches or stomach ailments. Compensation level increases if people had medial help or can demonstrate they have developed a chronic condition since the spill.  Participants in the medical settlement will receive many tests every three years for 21 years to determine whether there have been any changes in their medical condition.

People who later manifest conditions have a right to mediate with BP or to sue BP. They do not have to prove BP is liable, just that there is a link between their condition and exposure to oil or dispersants.

A program is included in the settlement called, The Gulf Coast Region Health Outreach Program, which will create a $105 million program to increase the capacity for delivering physical and mental health care in coastal communities. These benefits will be available to anyone, regardless if they are part of the settlement. The program will create a specialist referral network to help diagnose and treat oil spill-related illnesses. The goal of this program is to expand access to communities, create links to specialty care and increase the level of coastal clinics to federally qualified health care facilities to serve Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Even though the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 does not include personal injury as cause of action, plaintiffs pursued the argument in court under maritime law.  But this agreement from BP into the health settlement means they accept the concept that there will be medical costs from the spill. That’s noteworthy of them.

Information from this post was taken from The Times Picayune, March 11, 2012. For more information on this article, Click Here.

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