Free legal services available to BP Oil claimants

A five-state network of nonprofit civil legal services organizations is now providing free legal assistance to unrepresented claimants in the BP oil disaster recovery. Attorneys will advise claimants about documentation needed for the claims process, review settlement offers and provide legal advice and assistance about other matters related to their claims.

Legal Services entities in five Gulf states–from Texas to Florida–are coordinating their efforts in a program administered by the Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit public interest law firm. The program is funded by BP through the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, but legal assistance by local legal services attorneys is offered independent of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility or BP.

“As Gulf Coast residents continue to struggle with recovery from the BP oil disaster, we are here to ensure they have equitable access to a fair claims process,” says Martha Bergmark, Mississippi Center for Justice president. “We are collaborating with similar organizations in other Gulf states to ensure that claimants have an opportunity to seek a fair settlement.”

The group aims to provide legal assistance to residents who may otherwise be unable to afford an attorney. The organizations have been working together to examine the claims process and have provided input to GCCF about barriers that the process creates to low-income and minority claimants.

“Legal services attorneys from the Gulf states have been working together since last summer to find a way to provide this service to victims of the BP oil disaster,” said Bergmark. “We know from previous disaster recovery situations that low-income people need legal assistance but cannot afford an attorney. Without this service, they are denied a fair opportunity to fully explore their options. We are delighted that our diligent efforts to make this a cornerstone of the claims process is now a reality.”

Claimants may request the free legal assistance at any claims office, or by contacting the appropriate organization in their state. Those contacts are:
Alabama 866-456-4995, press 6
Services provided by Legal Services Alabama

Florida 855-299-1337
Services provided by Legal Services of North Florida and North Florida Center for Equal Justice

Louisiana 504-355-0970 in Orleans or Jefferson Parish. Outside those areas, call 800-310-7029. Or, e-mail your name, telephone number and a brief description of the help you are seeking to:
Services provided by Louisiana Civil Justice Center, Louisiana Justice Institute, Moving Forward Gulf Coast, Pro Bono Project, and Southeast Louisiana Legal Services

Mississippi 888-725-5423
Services provided by Mississippi Center for Justice, Mississippi Center for Legal Services and Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project

Texas 800-733-8394
Services provided by Lone Star Legal Aid

Gulf Coast Claims Facility is also referring claimants from the claims centers. More than 500 requests for free legal services have already been referred to the appropriate legal services organizations in each state.