It’s open season on BP claims
ENGLEWOOD — Mechanics, construction workers and hairdressers might not realize they could qualify for BP Deepwater Horizon claims.
A new phase of the settlement process offers a variety of businesses and workers who can prove loss of income from the April 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil-spill disaster the opportunity to file a claim until April 2014.
Those who were unsuccessful in qualifying for claims during the first phase of the BP settlement process could find themselves qualifying in this latest phase, local accountants and attorneys say.
“It’s much more broader-base,” said attorney Bill Riethmiller, with Sarasota-based Fresh Start Law Group LLC. He says his firm has been able to garner approved settlements for his clients, including a Port Charlotte hairdresser, ranging from $8,750 to more than $250,000.
Riethmiller’s firm uses computer software that can calculate and request the amount a specific business can expect to receive, rather than having BP determine how much a business should get.
Robert Berntsson said his firm — Berntsson, Ittersagen, Gunderson & Wideikis in Charlotte County — also has been successful securing claims for clients ranging from more than $5,700 for an auto repair and maintenance shop to more than $254,000 for a restaurant and bar. An idea of the range of claims can be found at www.bigwlaw.com.
Accountants, too, have been able to assist clients in filing successful claims. Kevin Flynn, an IRS tax accountant with the Englewood-based WJT Group, said he has helped florists, builders and contractors, retail stores, vacation and other rental companies file approved claims.
“There’s 150 different formulas,” Berntsson said of the process. The question is if a business meets a financial test. He also said those who filed unsuccessfully during the first phase of the BP settlement process could find themselves qualifying in this latest phase.
Berntsson and others said a determining factor in the size of settlements depends on which zone the business is in — zones range from A to D and are used to determine the size of the allowable claim. A-zone businesses see the highest settlements. The Florida Keys north to Captiva and Sanibel islands are in an A zone, but Gasparilla Island, Manasota Key and Siesta Key aren’t. Lido Key north to Tampa are deemed A zones. Businesses in D zones have the most hurdles to overcome.
Also, businesses west of U.S. 41 have a surer chance of garnering a settlement, according to Fresh Start Law Group.
Other tips from Fresh Start for business owners who want to file are:
• Compile five years of tax returns from 2007 to 2011.
• Determine how income in 2010 compares to earnings in 2009 and 2011. Any decrease in business, even a small one, can help qualify a claim.
• Prepare a breakdown of monthly gross earnings.
• Expect to pay no more than a 25 percent ceiling to an attorney or whoever helps to prepare the claim. Also, before a claim is filed, ask whoever provides the assistance how much money might be expected.
• BP is attempting to turn around claims in 75 days. The actual turnaround time might be closer to 90 to 180 days.