How to Make an Oil Spill Claim Against BP for Business losses in FloridaClaims for Florida business losses due to the British Petroleum Oil Spill
Our firm is no longer accepting BP Oil Cases. The deadline for filing a claim is April 20, 2011. If you do not file by that date your case or claim may be forever barred.
You can easily file your case even without a lawyer to protect your rights. There is no filing fee to file your claim.
Filing your case with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) is not the same as filing your case in court. If you have any doubt you should file this form. In order to get the short and easy form to file you should go to www.laed.uscourts.gov/OilSpill/Forms/Forms.htm You can also call 1-877-497-5926 to obtain the short form for filing. Do not delay. Act today to protect your rights if you have had a personal injury, loss of earnings, property damage, business loss, or other economic loss from the Oil Spill. Raptiva PML Lawsuit Side Effects Attorney Oil spill claims – As if we haven’t suffered enough? With every day that passes, thousands of gallons of oil continue to flow into the Gulf of Mexico. Likewise, with every day that passes, the impact on our state, both environmentally and economically, continues to worsen. Damages from this spill are expected to be in the multi-BILLIONS of dollars. Because people residing outside of the State of Florida do not differentiate between the panhandle region and southwest Florida – but instead, view the State as a whole, aside from the cost of the actual cleanup, it is expected that damages will be incurred by businesses all over the state of Florida. So what do you do if you are a commercial fisherman, a charter fishing boat captain or other business owner in the Tampa Bay area and you have already begun to see a drop in your revenues? How do you make a claim and who do you make your claim against? Is it the State of Florida, the Federal Government, BP, TransOcean or Halliburton? The answer, to some extent, depends on the type of claim you plan on bringing. If you live in Florida, are a commercial fisherman, and want to bring a claim for loss of revenues (economic loss), state law prohibits you from bringing an action for your economic loss against any of the companies mentioned above. So, now what do you do? With each day that passes, you continue to lose contracts for the fish you catch, the charters bookings you lose or the hotel guests who cancel there reservations, yet, the state of Florida says you can’t sue BP under state law for the losses you are sustaining. This just doesn’t seem fair. Don’t go postal just yet. You can pursue your rights under Federal law in a federal court or state court. But, you cannot do so without first filing a claim against BP. In the case of Boca Ciega Hotel, Inc., vs. Bouchard Transportation Company, Inc., 51 F3rd 235 (11th Cir. 1995), the court concluded that the claims presentment procedure of the Oil Protection Act of 1990 (or “OPA” – 33 U.S.C.A. Secs. 2701-2761) “constitutes a mandatory condition precedent to the filing of private lawsuits under the Act.” So, just what is a claims presentment procedure and how do you do it? Sec. 2713 of OPA states that “except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, all claims for removal costs or damages shall be presented first to the responsible party or guarantor of the source designated under section 2714(a) of this title.” (emphasis added) Great. How do you “present” your claim for removal costs or damages and who is the “responsible party”? The answer to the second part of that question is also found in OPA, section 2701(32)(c), which defines “responsible party.” In this particular case, the “responsible party” is BP, so that’s who OPA dictates your claim should be “presented to”. Now that we know the answer to the second question, we need to know the answer to the first question – HOW do you present your claim to BP? BP has set up several different methods of presenting them with your claim. I will attempt to explain the different methods and the things you will need to do to maximize your opportunities for having your claim honored and paid. Unfortunately, even if you do everything right in filing your claim, the possibility still exists that BP will not fully or even partially pay your claim, let alone do so in a timely manner. As BP says on its website, which certainly provides a good deal of wiggle room “BP will pay claims consistent with the law and will be guided by the relevant statutes and regulations,…and will “process legitimate claims arising from the Deepwater Horizon incident.” That’s the bad news. The good news is, if they don’t fully or timely pay your claim, by filing your claim with BP, you have at least perfected your right to pursue BP in Court under OPA. Ok, we are ready to look at what categories of damages BP will pay, the methods available to you in making your claim, and what information needs to be included in your claim. First, what are the categories of damages caused by the spill available for recovery from BP. Under OPA, they are as follows: • Removal and Cleanup costs • Property Damage • Subsistence Loss • Net Lost Government Revenue • Net Lost Profits/Earning Capacity • Cost of Increased public Services • Natural Resource Damage PLEASE NOTE – NOT INCLUDED AS A CATEGORY OF RECOVERABLE DAMAGES IS BODILY INJURY. Bodily injury was not included as a covered category because bodily injuries are not recoverable under OPA. However, BP has indicated that it will evaluate bodily injury claims through its claims process on a case-by-case basis. Good luck with that. According to BP’s website, in reviewing any claims submitted to them, they will be looking specifically at the following “general principles” • “The oil spill must be the legal cause of the alleged loss. • The alleged loss cannot be remote or speculative. • The claim must be substantiated. • Reasonable efforts must be taken to mitigate the loss. • When BP pays a claim, the payment will be for net loss. • A given loss will be paid for once. There will be no double recovery. • BP will be efficient, practical, and fair.” Of all of the “general principles” mentioned, the one to be most concerned or wary of is the one dealing with mitigation. According to BP’s website, anyone making a claim has a responsibility and duty to make reasonable efforts to avoid or minimize any losses they sustain from the oil spill. That means if you’re have a charter fishing boat, and you have an opportunity to utilize your boat for some other purpose, you would need to do so. BP does, however, state that any additional expenses related to mitigation can be included in your claim. Contact Us Ok, let’s get down to how you make a claim. There are two different ways a claim can be filed with BP – by phone or on line. BY PHONE – If you choose to make your claim by phone, you would need to call 800-440-0858. You will then be prompted to press #1 if you are filing a new claim. Once you have pressed #1, a live person will come on the line to begin taking information from you. First, you will be asked to provide basic background information, such as • your name • address • location of your loss – if known • primary contact number • social security number • date of birth • occupation Next, you will be asked about the specific damage you are reporting. If your claim is for property damage, they will need to know about the nature of your property. Damages are recorded as “factors”. For example, a person may have one property damage claim, yet, have more than one “factor” – ie. a boat owner who claims loss of income AND damage to the boat. If your claim is for loss of income, you will be asked about the nature of your income stream. You will be asked to provide historical proof of your income, and proof of the loss caused by the oil spill – ie. a boat captain would be required to provide a copy of his fishing license, boat registration, and proof of past income (tax returns will be REALLY important). If your claim is for bodily injury, you will be asked about the nature of your injury or illness. Once again, all injuries are recorded as “factors”. You may only have one bodily injury claim, but several factors. You will be asked if you have sought out or received any medical treatment for your injuries or illness, and if so, the name of the doctor or facility providing the treatment and their address (your medical records will be REALLY important). Once all of this information has been collected and entered into the system, you will receive a follow up phone call providing you with a claim number. You will then be informed that a claims adjuster will follow up with you in 3 to 4 days. ON LINE – You can make your claim on line by going to one of these web site addresses or URL’s: • www.bp.com/gulfofmexicoclaims • www.bp.com/claims • www.bp.com/claim • www.fl-response.com • www.ms-response.com • www.al-response.com • www.la-response.com This list could change and these URL’s, along with additional URL’s, could be added or taken away. Once you have logged on to one of these sites, you will be directed to fill out an on line claims form. The information that you will be requested to provide is the same as if you had filed your claim via telephone. Once you have completed your form on line, a screen will advise you that you will receive either an email or telephone call with your claim number within 3 to 4 days. Once your claim, whether by phone or on line, has been filed and a claim number assigned, your claim will be entered into the data base creating a First Notice of Loss, which is then sent to a Claim Manager, who reviews the claim and assigns the claim to the appropriate State Team. Complex claims are assigned to the Large Loss Unit. An adjuster is then assigned to the claim, and the adjuster then will contact you to discuss your claim, confirm your contact information, and advise you of the documentation you will need to support your claim. Here is where it gets really hairy – documentation. START COLLECTING YOUR DOCUMENTATION NOW. Doing so will speed up the processing of your claim. Tax returns, charter agreements, purchase orders, any documentation you have which reflects prior income, cancellation of agreements, etc. will be necessary to prove up your claim. Your ability to document your loss will have a significant impact on whether your claim is processed without the necessity of filing suit. As you would expect, the better your documentation, the greater your odds of having your claim paid. The easiest way for BP to deny your claim is because of insufficient documentation. Don’t make their job easier. Here are a few examples from BP’s website • Loss of Income Claims – “The information requested to support an economic loss claim can include tax records, trip tickets, wage loss statements, deposit slips, boat registration, and a copy of claimant’s current fishing license. Commercial economic loss claims may require additional business specific records to support the claim. The information requested to support a loss of rental claim can include prior occupancy rates, cancellations, tax records, and bookkeeping records.” • Property Damage Claims – “Minor property damage claims can often be handled over the phone with the subsequent submission of supporting information, e.g., photographs and replacement or cleaning receipts. Larger property damage claims may require on-site inspection by a claims adjuster.” • Bodily Injury claims – “The information requested to support a bodily injury claim can include medical records, medical bills, and pharmacy records.” If you have sustained a Large Loss, which is defined as a claim with a large monetary value or a claim which is based on complex economic predictions of loss, you should submit your claim to ESIS Large Loss Team, P.O. Box 17160, Wilmington, DE 19850. These claims will be handled by experienced claims adjusters with the assistance of accountants and lawyers. As you might expect, financial documents supporting your claimed loss will be imperative. Finally, there is an opportunity to receive an interim payment from BP. Within 48 hours of receiving your documentation in support of your claim, your claim is supposed to be evaluated and you are supposed to be notified if BP will make an advance payment to you for your claim. According to BP’s website, “the advance payment will be up to the equivalent of one month lost income, based on the documentation you have provided to support the claim. This advance is not based on actual income and may need to be adjusted for any secondary payment if the advance exceeds actual income.” If you are in need of a second payment, BP will make that payment based on your actual loss of income, which, once again, is based on the documents you provide. Finally, and I thought this last part was sadly ironic, BP says that “if the event continues beyond 1 month, claimants will continue to receive any future payments electronically.” Guess we can figure that part will apply to your loss, can’t we? Now, after having gone through all of these procedures, if BP either fails to make you an offer within 90 days of your presenting your claim, or makes you an offer which you feel is woefully insufficient, after the 90 days have passed, you do have the right to pursue an action in either State Court or Federal Court against BP. While we hope that your claims are satisfied through the claims process, based on the past and current actions of BP, our optimism is significantly guarded. As you go through this difficult time, we hope you find this information helpful, and we remain available should you need any additional information. Claims for Florida business losses due to the British Petroleum Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico must be made under the Federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990. You must present your claim to BP for consideration before filing a lawsuit against the Company. The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 Allows for Business Losses Due to Oil Spills Florida law currently requires that a person or business suffer direct contamination from the spilled oil in order to bring a claim. However, the Federal Oil Pollution Act of 1990 allows for business losses for fishermen, marinas, hotels, and any other businesses or individuals that have suffered as a result of the BP Oil Spill. So Florida residents and businesses should bring a claim under this Federal Oil Spill Act in order to recover their losses. How Do I Bring my Florida Claim under the Oil Pollution Act? The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 provides that before a lawsuit can be filed the business or individual suffering the loss must make a claim upon the corporation that spilled the oil. So a detailed description of the claimed loss must be presented to BP in writing. A lawsuit can only be filed if the claim is denied.If the claim is not presented to BP before filing suit it is likely that the lawsuit will be dismissed. How Do I Need to Document My BP Oil Spill Claim? The Oil Pollution Act requires that each claim be well documented. This includes describing how the oil spill caused your loss of income and actions that you took to minimize your losses. You should also describe why you could not make up that income in some other business or with some other business. Additionally, you must account for overhead you might have saved. Business records for prior years for earnings during the same period of the year would also help to document your losses. The key to making this claim is to document in as much detail as possible. Where Do I Make My Claim? British Petroleum has a website at www.bp.com and you will see a claims section on the right hand side of the page that will bring up an online form that you can fill out and submit. That would be the best place to start. Is BP paying Claims for Oil Spill Losses? Yes, so far BP is paying many claims that are submitted to them without requiring a release of liability. You should not sign a full release of liability because it is too early to tell how long the spill will last and how much damage it will do. If you claim is not paid you should take your time to find an experienced lawyer to assist you. If BP Denies My Claim What Type of Lawyer Do I Need? You need a lawyer who has experience in federal law practice. Many local accident attorneys have little or no experience in federal court or in handling maritime matters. I have been practicing federal law and maritime law for 25 years. Restaurants Restaurant Owners Hotels Hotel Owners Fishermen Commercial Fisherman Oyster Farmers Shrimpers Seafood Processors Seafood Packaging Companies Boat Dock and Marina owners Commercial And Private Boat Owners City Government State Government Tourism Related Businesses Boat And Charter Any and all businesses affected directly or indirectly by the BP oil spill