In addition to worrying about the very active hurricane season that most experts are predicting, we now also must contend with the BP Oil Spill already impacting Pensacola and its almost certain eventual impact on various parts of our shoreline, estuaries and other waterways. Senator Bill Nelson recently revealed that new equipment to be installed to control the oil spill will have to be turned off at least 4 days prior to a hurricane and, should a hurricane hit us, for a week. Literally, when it rains it pours!!
This Oil Spill is akin to a slow-moving hurricane. Many of the same steps you take to prepare your communities for a hurricane will also apply to possible damages you may suffer if the oil reaches your shore.
As most of you know, BP Oil has set aside $20 billion for its relief fund and there is talk that the size of that fund will be further increased. Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer who handled the disbursement of 9/11 relief funds to impacted families, has been tapped to administer the BP Oil claims process. Claimants will be entitled to appeal a decision to a panel of three retired judges from the Gulf states appointed by Feinberg.
$5,000 payments to impacted business owners have already been made although the feedback has been that the paperwork involved with securing such payment is voluminous indeed. More and more businesses and individuals are filing claims every day some with very remote links to the damage zone. Many experts predict that the relief fund will run out well before all claims can even be considered let alone paid.
The following are some links to guide you in the BP claims process.
• Claims Process Manual: http://bit.ly/b02QOC
• “How to Make a Claim” page: http://bit.ly/aOIvMI
• Offices Where Claims Can Be Filed: http://bit.ly/ccbMg4
Every insurance company and every insurance policy is different. There may very well be coverage under your policy for business interruption (if your community is a timeshare, condo hotel or simply runs a rental pool), property damage sustained by the Oil Spill, contamination, diminution in property value and more. Pursuing relief through both the BP Oil Claims Process as well as your own insurer are not mutually exclusive paths. Of course, when it is time to renew insurance policies for communities located in the possible “oil contamination zone” there is going to be a whole new set of challenges and concerns since there is no way for your insurer to accurately predict whether or how long it will take for the oil to eventually reach your shore.
It would be advisable to have your association attorney review your current master insurance policy to determine all coverages and exclusions that will impact the community’s chances for recovery should it suffer a loss due to the Oil Spill. Boat owners should have their individual policies reviewed to determine possible coverage. Sadly, we will be forced to talk a lot about “Hurricane” BP Oil over the coming months and possibly years. As with any disaster, experience has taught that an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.