BP settlement includes new health claims process

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BOOTHEVILLE, La. (AP) -- A settlement that BP is hammering out with victims of the massive Gulf oil spill finally provides a system for monitoring health concerns and compensating people whose illnesses are found to have a link to the disaster.

Government and university doctors studying locals' complaints haven't found significant evidence of spill-related illnesses, but problems years from now remain a question mark. Gulf Coast residents say they're happy that health complaints are getting a serious look, even if they'll face hurdles in proving that rashes, shortness of breath and other maladies were caused by the spill.

Under the settlement announced Friday, BP said it expects to pay out $7.8 billion to settle a wide range of claims that also include property damage, lost wages and loss to businesses. While a previously created fund had already been paying such economic loss claims, it hadn't paid claims over illnesses related to exposure.

Some residents who blame sicknesses on BP say they're optimistic about the court-supervised system.

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Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman in New Orleans contributed to this report.