This page was last updated on 9/02/2010.
NOTE: The claims process has changed substantially since this page was created (see above box). The information on this page about filing a claim with BP is now out-of-date.
Note on the Florida Fishery Disaster Declaration: Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke has declared a Fishery Disaster as a result of the oil spill. This declaration means that Congress may allocate funds to assist in the recovery under the Fishery Disaster Assistance Program. However, Congress has not allocated any funds at this time, and may or may not allocate them in the future. Any Fishery Disaster Assistance Program funds that Congress allocates will not be available for many months. Therefore, all parties who need economic assistance should apply for relief through the sources mentioned below.
Finding Economic Relief
This site is for Floridians who anticipate incurring economic loss resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Some businesses are already being affected by the spill, subsequent fishery closures, and media coverage. Other residents and businesses may be economically affected as well, including commercial and recreational fishermen, marinas, hotels, restaurants, and other marine-dependent or marine-proximate businesses. This page contains a brief overview of resources that will assist business owners and individuals who may need to make damage claims or receive financial assistance related to the oil spill.
Residents who have suffered damages to real or personal property or have suffered a loss of profits or earning capacity due to the Deepwater Horizon may be eligible for economic relief from BP or the federal government. Examples of damages include hotel or condo cancellations, an inability to fish, oil pollution on your property, an oiled boat, or reduced traffic at your business (such as restaurant, fish market, etc.).
What to do if you incur damages from the oil spill
If you are incur damages from the oil spill, whether direct or indirect, you should file a claim with BP. You must file a claim with BP before you are eligible to participate in any other claims programs or processes. You can file a claim with BP in several ways:
- Call BP’s Claims Hotline at 1-800-440-0858. The BP operators will take basic information from claimants (name, address, phone number, e-mail, nature of the claim, etc.) and assign a claim number.
- Apply online using BP’s online claims form
- Visit one of BP’s 10 Florida claims centers. Please click here for a list of the Florida claim centers.
Regardless of how you file your claim, BP will have a claims adjuster contact you within 5-10 days. The adjuster will help you file for an initial payment. To receive this payment, you need to be able to prove some basic facts about your loss. Adjusters will be looking for business records and documents, like tax returns, booking calendars, ledgers, documented cancellations, and so on. While the specific materials needed to document a loss will vary depending on the claim, all claimants should be prepared to offer as much documentation as possible. In anticipation of damage claims, Florida’s Department of Financial Services has prepared this information on claims documentation for businesses:
- Take detailed records of canceled reservations. News reports suggest that many condominium owners, hotels and restaurants are already having increased cancellations, and it’s important that when these cancellations occur, the canceling party is questioned whether the cause is because of the oil spill. If the answer is yes, keep a record of the person’s name and contact information, and also the revenues lost as a result of the cancellation.
- Calculate estimated losses for a six-week period and be able to provide records, sales receipts and documentation to support such a claim. A good idea would be to compare current business now to a five-year average of revenues between May and June, which can offer insight as to the damages incurred.
- Make a detailed list of assets – including non-structural – and include appropriate records to support the list. For example: if your member’s hotel or restaurant is within walking distance to the beach and that beach has oil reach its shores, the business’ assets are damaged even though there is no physical damage to the structure, and it is important to record this depreciation.
- Be wary of insurance settlement scams. For businesses who may have already begun the claims filing process with BP, first, make sure you are dealing with authorized representatives from BP and not scam artists; and be careful not to sign waivers of liability too quickly without getting adequate legal and financial counsel.
Also note that participating in any lawsuit against BP, such as a class-action suit, will likely prevent you from receiving immediate or short-term compensation. Please see our advisory Exercise Caution when Making Legal Decisions Related to Damages from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill for more information.
The claims process can be confusing. Florida Sea Grant has assembled several resources to help clarify the process:
- Making Claims for Damages Due to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill fact sheet
- Damage Claims for the Deepwater Horizon Spill flowchart
- BP’s Claims Manual provides an overview of the entire claims process, including the individual steps required to make a claim, the different types of claims available, and the different kinds of documentation adjusters will be looking for. This manual is a good resource for anyone interested in making a claim. The manual also has the claims forms that BP is using for:
BP’s claims document also has some suggestions for commercial claims documentation.
Additionally, a Consumer Helpline has been established by the Florida Department of Financial Services at 1-877-My-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236) to assist business owners affected by the oil spill with their claims questions. Specialists are available from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm Monday through Friday. CFO Alex Sink has also created a brief PowerPoint explaining the claims process and has released a special bulletin outlining the claims process.
Finally, the federal Restore the Gulf website has information on making claims.
If your claim is denied by BP
If your claim is denied by BP, or BP fails to address your claim within 90 days, you may apply to the National Pollution Funds Center (NPFC) for damages. Note that you must submit claims to BP before you can submit a claim to the NPFC. Generally, there are two categories of claims for damages that may be made:
- Real or Personal Property Damage
- Loss of Profits and Earning Capacity
These categories are broadly defined however, and may include many different types of damages. NPFC has additional information about the types of claims and information about how to make claims here.
How does insurance affect the claims process?
Some homeowners, business interruption, or umbrella insurance policies may cover some or all of your damages. See your policy documents for information for specifics of whether the oil spill damage is covered and how to make an insurance claim.
If some or all of the oil spill damage is covered by insurance, any insurance payment must be reported as any part of a claim to BP or the National Pollution Funds Center. This is because the Oil Pollution Funds Act specifically preserves “subrogation” for insurance companies (33 U.S.C. section 2715). Subrogation means that if an insurance company pays a party’s damages from the oil spill (or part of them) under the party’s insurance coverage, the insurance company takes over that party’s right to claim that same money from BP (or the National Pollution Funds Center). To avoid confusion or potential problems down the road, claimants need to keep very good records of what payments are coming from what sources for which damages.
There are several federal and state economic assistance programs designed to help those who need financial help.
Federal Disaster Assistance
There are many federal agencies and programs designed to help those affected by the oil spill. These programs include employment, food, housing, and living assistance for individuals, business loans, and other forms of assistance. For a complete listing of programs, please visit the federal assistance clearinghouse at DisasterAssistance.gov.
Florida Disaster Assistance
The State of Florida has set up several different programs to help businesses and individuals affected by the oil spill. Please visit http://www.FloridaOilHelp.com for information on availability and to apply.
Florida Bridge Loan Program
In an effort to assist businesses impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Governor Charlie Crist has activated Florida’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program, which will provide emergency, short-term loans to established small businesses in the following counties: Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, Franklin, Wakulla, Jefferson, Taylor, Dixie, Levy, Citrus, Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, Collier, Monroe, Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
Short-term loans of up to $25,000 will be available to owners of small businesses (less than 100 employees) in counties impacted the recent oil spill. The interest-free loans come in terms of 12 month maturities. To be eligible, a business owner must have been operational for one full year prior to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on April 20, 2010, and demonstrate physical damage or economic injury as a result of the oil spill.
Applications for businesses will be available Monday, June 14, 2010. To receive an application or more information on the program, please visit http://www.FloridaOilHelp.com or contact either the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development at (850) 487-2568 or the Florida First Capital Finance Corporation at (850) 681-3601.
Small Business Association Loans
The Small Business Association (SBA) provides low interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private, non-profit organizations to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery & equipment, inventory and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster.The Emergency Bridge Loan program authorized today is in addition to a federal loan program that was requested by Governor Crist and approved by the U.S. Commerce Secretary on May 14, 2010. The federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan can help eligible small businesses meet the necessary financial obligations they could have met, had the disaster not occurred. Interest rates for businesses and small agricultural cooperatives are as low as four percent, and for non-profit organizations rates are as low as three percent, with terms up to 30 years. Affected business owners can visit the SBA Web site for more information on this program at www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance.