THE GULF OIL SPILL: Deadline nears to file claims

skennedy@bradenton.comOctober 28, 2010 

MANATEE — Attorneys are alerting those adversely affected by the Gulf oil spill to file claims before the Nov. 23 deadline.

“I would urge people to get their claims filed by that date,” said Carl Nelson, an adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law and a Tampa attorney with the firm Fowler, White, Boggs.

Although Manatee and Sarasota counties remained pristine throughout the Deepwater Horizon disaster, some individuals and businesses suffered losses as a result of the misconception that oil had stained local shores.

If claimants file before the Nov. 23 deadline for emergency payments, they would not be required to sign any kind of release, Nelson noted.

A claimant unsure of the amount of his or her total loss could still file a final claim at a later date, he said.

“It doesn’t make sense if you’ve got a $20 billion fund there, not to submit your claim and help your business,” Nelson said.

The total dollar amount of claims paid to date in connection with the massive BP oil spill was listed at $1.5 billion, according to a summary compiled by the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which is in charge of the claims process.

It listed 234,879 individual claimants and 47,809 business claimants. So far, 86,392 have been paid; 137,016 require additional information or documentation; 232 were referred to government moratorium and real estate funds; 8,613 were denied, and 50,435 were still under review, the summary said.

Among those planning to file is Barbara Rodocker, owner of The Sun House Restaurant; Bridgewalk, A Landmark Resort, and Silver Surf Gulf Beach Resort, all at Bradenton Beach.

“We do believe and have believed we’ve lost business as a result of all the publicity about the oil spill, not only in our resort, but in the restaurant,” she said Wednesday.

“We lost business because people just don’t want to come to the beach when they think the whole of Florida is covered with oil,” she said.

“We’ve occasionally had people ask, but most watch television or read the papers, and decided they aren’t going to come.”

She said that her summer business originates in upper Florida and lower Georgia, and that, while some from that area realized Manatee County had escaped oil, “others just didn’t come to Florida.”

Rodocker said she planned to file a claim before Nov. 23 because, “You’ll be in the gray area if you don’t file by then.”

That deadline is for those who are filing for emergency advance payments, said David Rash, an attorney at Miami’s Alters Law Firm.

He said the firm represents about 100 clients along the Florida west coast from Tampa to Fort Myers.

The deadline date for final claims is Aug. 23, 2013, he said.

Among Alters’ clients from this area are well-known commercial fishermen, fish house processors, producers, wholesalers, retailers, restaurateurs, beach concessionaires, those who rent Jet Skis and beach equipment, oystermen, shrimpers, and crabbers, Rash said.

Some are filing claims on their own, while law firm employees are helping others to file, Rash said.

“We don’t demand that we file claims for them, if they want to do it themselves,” said Rash. “Sometimes, it can be more beneficial if they do it, develop a rapport with the local claims officer.”

However, when a client is ready to file a final claim, “We’re a little more aggressive in advising people you need counsel for that.”

More than 400 million gallons of oil leaked from BP’s well off the Louisiana coast following an April fire and explosion.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.

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