Dealing With Sinkholes
Sinkholes are formed beneath the earth’s surface as fluctuations in the water-table cause groundwater to pass through soluble bedrock. Erosion then causes voids or large cavities in the bedrock. After enough erosion has occurred, these underground empty spaces collapse under their own weight causing a sinkhole.
Sinkhole activity can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. In the United States, sinkholes occur most often in Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Many of Florida’s lakes and ponds were formed from sinkhole activity.
They often cause significant damage to buildings and property. Property owners can easily find themselves at a significant disadvantage to the insurance company when it comes to dealing with the damage caused by a sinkhole. A knowledgeable and experienced sinkhole attorney in Tampa, Florida, can help a property owner through every stage of their claim, from filing to final settlement.
The Florida Legislature has made significant changes to the sinkhole laws in recent years. Although sinkholes have not stopped forming in Florida, the Legislature has increased the requirements for a property owner to be able to make a claim for sinkhole damage. The attorneys at Burnett Law, P.A., are extremely knowledgeable about these changes and we will sit down with you to discuss how these changes may affect you and your property.
Although sinkholes have not stopped forming in Florida, the Legislature has increased the requirements for a property owner to be able to make a claim for sinkhole damage.
What Can I Expect After a Sinkhole Loss?
Sinkholes are not a novel occurrence in Florida. Nevertheless, the process of filing a sinkhole claim with your insurance company can be both difficult and confusing. By regularly amending the laws pertaining to sinkhole claims, the Florida Legislature does little to alleviate these issues. As such, once you contact your insurance company and report that you have suffered a loss related to a sinkhole, you can expect your insurer will:
- Determine if your loss is indeed a “sinkhole-related loss.” The law directs that the insurance company will conduct an inspection and evaluation of your claim by determining if your home suffered structural damage. This often requires the services of a professional engineer. If structural damage exists, the insurer will need to make a determination as to whether the structural damage was caused by sinkhole activity. This determination (again) may require the services of a professional engineer or geologist.
- Inform you of its findings if it determines that either your residence did not suffer structural damage or if it did not determine the structural damage occurred or that the structural damage was not caused by sinkhole activity (there are other reasons why a sinkhole claim may be denied). If your insurer does find that the damage to your home does not meet the definition of a “sinkhole loss,” you do have a right to request independent testing under certain circumstances.
- Prohibit you from obtaining a rebate if you do obtain compensation through a sinkhole claim. Obtaining a rebate from a person who is performing sinkhole repairs can cause significant problems for your insurance coverage and (if you attempt to hide the rebate, refuse to turn it over to the insurer or otherwise commit fraud) result in criminal liability.
- Conduct repairs in accordance with the law, which generally requires both repairs to the structure as well as stabilization of the ground underneath the structure.
During this process, there are a number of ways your insurance company may attempt to minimize the amount you receive for your claim – or deny you coverage altogether.
- Your insurer may delay the payment or processing of your claim, hoping that the delay in repairs will encourage you to settle for a smaller payment;
- Your insurer may claim that your residence did not suffer any structural damage;
- Your insurer may claim that the structural damage is not related to sinkhole activity; and/or
- Your insurer may underestimate the amount necessary to compensate you for your loss.
Contact Us Today To Learn More About How We Can Help You
To learn more about your legal options and to set up a free consultation, contact the Tampa Sinkhole Claims Lawyers at Burnett Law, P.A. We are dedicated to quality, personalized representation of individuals and businesses, never insurance companies. As a plaintiffs-only law firm, we concentrate our practice in litigation, property insurance, construction and personal injury law. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today for a free consultation.