New Gulf oil spill claims process getting underway

Originally published by News

By Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Thousands of victims of BP’s 2010 Gulf oil spill will participate in a new process for economic-loss and medical claims associated with the accident.

The Deepwater Horizon Claims Center, run by court-appointed administrator Patrick Juneau, will open 18 intake centers across the Gulf Coast next week to accept such claims. They will be paid based on the strict terms of a negotiated settlement. Its central offices are based in downtown New Orleans.

The Times-Picayune reports ( ) that a separate facility will also open to handle claims from coastal residents and cleanup workers who say they were injured from exposure to the spill.

Beginning Monday, anyone who suffered spill-related losses or injuries and hasn’t already accepted a final settlement from BP through the former Gulf Coast Claims Facility will be able to apply under the new process.

More information about the terms of the settlement and how to file a Gulf oil spill claim of economic loss is available at or by phone, 24 hours a day, at the toll-free number 866.992.6174. The same is true for the medical claims, at or on its toll-free hotline at 877.545.5111.

The new payment system was set up under the terms of a settlement reached this spring to avoid a trial on thousands of health and economic-damage Gulf oil spill claims by individuals and businesses harmed by the oil spill. The deal, preliminarily approved by U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, was uncapped. That means there’s no limit on how much money is available to pay damages, though BP has estimated the cost at about $7.8 billion. The settlement was not an admission of liability by BP.

The new claims facilities represent both a break from and a continuation of the Gulf Oil Spill Claims Facility, the entity run by Kenneth Feinberg from August 2010 through the settlement in March. Feinberg’s program paid out more than $6 billion of BP money to 225,000 claimants in those 18 months. Although the subject of much criticism from some local officials and unhappy claimants, it received generally high marks for fairness and efficiency from auditors hired by the U.S. Justice Department to review its performance.

A transition team headed by Juneau has paid another $313 million in two months to another 12,700 claimants who were already in Feinberg’s queue, mostly by sending them 60 percent of what Feinberg had offered them while leaving them the option to collect more under the new settlement process.

The new process is open both to those who had claims rejected by Feinberg and those who never previously sought payments.

Juneau, a Lafayette native, will spend next week meeting with employees at the new centers from Texas to Florida and the Hammond call center.

“I want this program to kick off in a friendly manner and assist people. I want (the staff) to pay all legitimate, eligible claims 100 percent of what they’re due,” he said. “This is not a negotiating matter. We are not trying to negotiate lesser sums.”

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