The trial over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill is set to begin  this morning in New Orleans before a federal judge, with no jury. Attempts to reach a settlement over the weekend failed, but legal experts expect that one will be reached, at least with the U.S. Department of Justice, within the next few months.

Eleven men were killed and millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the accident, the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

The lawsuit pits the Justice Department and several Gulf Coast states against BP PLC, rig owner Transocean LTD and well cement services provider Halliburton Co.

BP already has spent or committed $37 billion to cleanup, restoration, payouts, fines and settlements related to the incident, but a finding of gross negligence on the company’s part could result in paying tens of billions more. Gross negligence involves a finding of reckless or willful disregard for human and environmental safety — a difficult standard to prove in court.

The first phase of the trial will focus on the negligence claim and apportioning blame among the defendants. The trial is expected to last several months, with the second phase beginning in September.

The maritime lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers represent injured offshore workers and families of offshore workers killed in accidents. Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. is currently representing individuals injured in the Deepwater Horizon explosion.