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Settlement for Gulf Coast oil spill draws nearer

Years after the treacherous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, settlements are still being negotiated between claimants and British Petroleum. The massive settlement will cover those who sustained economic damage in addition to those injured or made ill as the result of the offshore accident in Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states.

At this time, attorneys for both sides are preparing for the impending settlement as those who object to the settlement raise their concerns during the "fairness hearing." Observers believe the settlement could reach a total value of $8 billion.

Potential claimants from Louisiana and surrounding states will have the opportunity to make their voice heard about the settlement. Once this component of the trial is complete, the court will begin to look at BP's handling of the disaster and assess additional aspects of liability. The judge assigned to the case is expected to issue a decision in the coming days.

Though economic damages will be covered in the settlement, the court will also deal with the medical-related claims. During the disaster, 11 rig workers were killed and many coastal residents have claims for injuries and illnesses that resulted from the oil spill and its subsequent clean up.

Ship owners and companies that employ workers offshore bear responsibility for the safety of their seamen and workers. There is a doctrine known as maintenance and cure to provide medical care and basic living expenses to injured offshore workers. However, the unique nature of the BP Oil disaster presents unique legal challenges for those headed into the settlement phase of the trial. Ship owners and companies, as well as workers, are seeking financial relief from BP.

Whether affected by the BP spill or some other maritime related accident, it is important to know your rights.

Source: The Times-Picayune, "Fairness hearing on proposed BP oil spill settlement slated for Thursday in New Orleans," Richard Thompson, Nov. 6, 2012

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