Oil spill recap: Do you understand the claims process for business losses?


Tourism businesses across the state who were financially harmed by the Gulf Oil Spill may want to check out the Sentinel’s coverage today of the meeting last week between Kenneth Feinberg and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

In addition to trying to quell concerns of hoteliers, Feinberg promised to release a methodology in the next couple weeks to help claimants calculate future losses. He also outlined the current claims process.

Here’s a recap:

Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility stopped taking applications for emergency payments as of Nov. 23. Now hoteliers and restaurant owners who think their businesses were harmed by the BP spill need to decide how they want to structure their requests for final payments, which requires them to calculate damages into the future.

During last week’s meeting, Feinberg outlined the options for hoteliers still seeking non-emergency compensation.

They can apply for a final, all-encompassing payment, a route already taken by 24,800 businesses and individuals in Florida. Such a payment would require a business to estimate its future damages and give up its right to sue BP.

“Don’t come back again once you’ve signed for a final payment for present-and-future damage,” Feinberg warned association members. “That’s it, and you release your rights to sue in the courts.”

Another option involves interim, quarterly payments. Businesses can document their damages every three months until they get a clearer picture of the spill’s ultimate effect on their income. In Florida, 11,810 applicants have chosen this “watch-and-wait” scenario.

A third option, for those who have already received an emergency payment and are unable to document further damage, is a quick-pay alternative. Individuals can receive $5,000 within 20 days, while businesses can get $25,000 if they sign a release of liability and give up their right to seek further compensation from the fund or in court. With 30,509 Floridians filing for quick-pay, this has been the most popular option so far.

Businesses or individuals who were denied an emergency payment, or were granted less than requested, can consider refiling. If the claims facility concludes that it made a mistake, that amount will be added to an interim or the final payment.

“We’ll take another look at the denial,” Feinberg said.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
Cooper Law Firm

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