(Mobile, Ala.) – A five-state network of nonprofit civil legal services organizations are 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 collaborating under a grant funded by Gulf Coast Claims Facility and administered by the Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit law firm. Legal assistance is offered independent of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility.
“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. In Alabama, claimants can call 866-456-4995, press 6, or go online to www.legalservicesalabama.org. The pro bono services are provided by Legal Services Alabama.
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.