Our firm has been receiving calls from a large number of Florida condominium associations over the past few days regarding the increasing problems associated with the oil spill that is plaguing the gulf coast. I have a personal connection to this growing crisis. I spent a large portion of my life in Destin, Florida, and part of my family still lives and works in the area. Late last night, I flew to the panhandle to see what our firm could do to help.

This area of Florida is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters like hurricanes and the current oil spill. In areas like Destin, Fort Walton Beach, and Panama City, economies are largely based on tourism. Because of the oil spill, the phones at local hotels have been ringing off the hook with tourists cancelling reservations for the upcoming months due to the uncertainty that looms. While sitting in one office this morning, I heard more than five calls from concerned renters requesting that their reservations be cancelled and their deposits be refunded.

The consequences of the current oil spill will continue long after the spill is stopped or contained and will affect almost every aspect of life in this area. It seems inevitable that the oil slick will reach this area at some point, and the timing could not be worse. A decline in tourism during the summer months will almost surely cripple the condominiums, hotels, restaurants, beach services, retail shops, and many others who depend on the influx of vacationers during this time of year to make a living.

The question I have been asked most often during the numerous phone calls and meetings today is “what can we do to protect our business and our employees?” First, it is important to realize that even though the oil has not made landfall, its effects are far from small. From day one, the spill has created documented damages to businesses and homeowners, and these losses will grow exponentially.

Second, it is crucial that condominiums and other business diligently document the losses that are incurred. If a renter calls to cancel a reservation, the reservationist should specifically ask whether the cancellation is due to the oil spill. If so, the potential renter’s information should recorded and saved in order to document the lost income.

Also, everyone should be proactive in protecting the financial security of the association and the other businesses that are being adversely affected by this disaster. Many condominium associations and other businesses have already contacted the Merlin Law Group and we are in the process of filing a class action lawsuit in order to protect the livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people in this part of the country who depend on tourism to survive.

This Tuesday, May 4, 2010, we will be hosting an informational seminar at the San Destin Hilton in Destin, Florida. Beginning at 1:00 pm, a select group of attorneys, accountants, and other professionals will be on hand to answer questions about the steps that are being taken to protect this fragile economy and environment. So far, we have had over 100 businesses, associations, and individuals express interest in this event and we hope that you will be able to join us as well.

In order to deal with the current crisis, we have started a new website to keep the public informed. If you have any questions or wishes to speak to us about representation, you can contact us at the number listed on the website, or you can contact me directly at 813-373-9598.

  • dennis

    This should be interesting. I was appointed by Govenor Cowper as the logistics coordinator for the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 and it appears this spill is playing-out from a preliminary standpoint, in roughly the same manner.

    If I learned one thing from that disaster, get a game-plan in-place quickly and open-up negotiations for a settlement as soon as possible. If you don’t, it will take forever to obtain compensation for losses. BP will lose interest in pay-outs of negotiated settlements after about 6-10 months.

  • Darn I sure wish I had read this before the meeting as I defnitely would have attended. I too am from Destin, Fl and have many friends and family in the area. Please post the next time one is scheduled.

    Families in Holiday Isle that live in coastal homes and have rentals are all concerned like my sister who owns two short term rentals on the canal there. Not only will it effect their rentals but also their boat slip rentals.

    I also have a niece their with her Captain’s license and am keeping up with the news on their trip cancellations and concerns at the one time of the year they get much business in spring and summer. This is just devastating for them.

    The Destin Log is being very proactive posting news at http://www.thedestinlog.com which we follow daily.

    I’ll get a blog up linking to your posts this week and send it out to friends their with the Wildlife refuge in Destin as well.

    Thanks for what you are doing looking out for oil spill victims. I am also thankful at this point that BP is claiming responsibility should the oil damage homes and businesses in Destin and everywhere along the Gulf Coast.

    We have 1212 Independent adjusters on ClaimSmentor along with 76 independent adjusting firm owners waiting on word as to what adjusting firms may be handling these claims but as yet rumor only has the name of one firm in LA that may be potentially handling the claims there so we are getting little information from an insurance claim standpoint.

  • Corey Harris

    Debbie,

    As of now we don’t have any plans for another town hall meeting. We will be posting the video from Tuesday online as soon as it is available.

    If there is anything I can answer for you specifically, please feel free to give me a call.

  • Hopefully this will give people an idea of the current condition of the beaches in Destin and the surronding areas.

    Destin has not been effected by the oil so far, the beaches are open and clear. I use http://destinoilspill.com for updates they take videos of the beach and update maps all the time. You can see the impact on real estate at http://www.destincondosandhomes.com/

  • Here s some real help for the gulf oil spill Victims ,

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    Check this website ,http://afreestare.webs.com/
    Real help is available now … thanks to forwarders !