More than two years have passed since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, but thousands of people are still filing claims to seek compensation for economic losses that resulted.
As of Friday, 40,031 claims have been filed through the Deepwater Horizon Economic and Property Damages Settlement, which started taking applications in June. Of those, 13,614 were filed by Florida residents, according to the program's website.
Payment for claims submitted through the process, which was created after a class action lawsuit against BP was settled in March, haven't been made, but according to information posted with statistics about claims, payments are expected to be issued within a month.
A local company has partnered with an accounting firm to create an online program to help business owners submit claims for lost revenue through the settlement program.
The web-based program, called the Business Economic Loss System, was developed by Panama City Beach-based Wallace Consulting Group, and the calculators inside the system were developed by CPA firm Carr, Riggs & Ingram.
The CPA firm has been heavily involved in the oil spill claims process, said Michael Scott, a partner with the company.
"While we were working to prepare claims during the (Gulf Coast Claims Facility) process, we were retained by the Plaintiff Steering Committee to work with them in negotiations and drafting of the settlement verses BP," he said in an email interview.
He said Carr, Riggs & Ingram worked with the steering committee over the course of eight months before the settlement was reached in March.
Scott said he can't provide information about what role they played, other than the company was hired "to perform services in the arena of the Business Economic Loss section of the 1,033 page agreement."
He said once the settlement was reached, the online application was created for anyone to use "to assist them to prepare claims."
It can be used by anyone seeking a business loss claim, and those who intend to file a claim can use an accounting firm other than Carr, Riggs & Ingram. It isn't designed to help individuals file claims.
The program prepares all business economic loss claim calculation reports, including standard business, start-up business, failed business and failed start-up business claims.
To file a claim, the first step is to determine whether the business is eligible to receive compensation. A presumptive causation test is available at no charge.
Those who pass the test do not need a causation test report. Those who do not and wish to proceed would pay $89 for the causation test report, which would be used to determine if there are eligible damages.
Business economic loss reports, which are used to document the loss, are $199, plus any professional CPA time required by Carr, Riggs & Ingram.
The program itself asks questions and uses the answers to perform the required business economic loss calculations. An online library contains required forms.
"We have been testing it as it was developed against the settlement framework and the calculators we've been using for processing claims for attorney groups to be filed with the new claims administrator," Scott said. "We've tested it throughout our oil spill teams within the firm in our offices in Panama City, Destin, Tifton, Ga., Niceville and Tampa."
An exact launch date for the product hasn't been determined. Information is available by calling Scott at 785-6153.
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