Sinkholes Can Lead to Insurance Disputes in Florida
Sinkholes are a prevalent problem in states across the country. These seemingly sudden and sporadic ground openings can cause significant damage, injuries and fatalities. In 2013, visitors to a Florida resort quickly evacuated as the ground beneath the building gave way, reportedly causing a crater that measured more than 50 feet across and 15 feet deep. Earlier this year, a video of cars falling into a Baltimore, Maryland sinkhole went viral. Fox News is now reporting on a recent incident, where a Florida residential neighborhood is currently in danger of disappearing into another large sinkhole. The 40-foot wide hole opened up last week, resulting in the evacuation of one residence. Other evacuations may occur once engineering reports are complete.
What is a Sinkhole?
According to a report in National Geographic, a sinkhole is “ basically any collapsed or bowl-shaped feature that’s formed when a void under the ground creates a depression into which everything around it drains.” There are reportedly two types of this disturbing phenomenon:
- Cover-subsidence – These are generally found in places where the soil is sandy. The ground gives way slowly and it can take thousands of years for the sinkhole to form;
- Cover-collapse – These are the types that are making the newspapers, generally occurring in areas with heavy clay content. The soil reportedly moves down into a cave beneath the earth, creating an empty space above. That empty space is covered by what is seen from above ground, which basically forms a bridge over the void. When the bridge cannot take anymore weight, it collapses suddenly, causing a sinkhole.
Florida Sinkhole Insurance
Florida is highly susceptible to sinkholes, due to the make-up of the ground. For this reason, many residents seek out insurance to cover damages that may occur to a home. Until recent years, sinkhole insurance was a standard part of homeowners insurance policies within the state. Even smaller sinkhole damages were eligible for coverage. With changes to the law, Florida insurance agencies are only required to cover damages that result from “catastrophic ground cover collapse.”
“Catastrophic ground cover collapse” is defined by the Florida Department of Financial Services as follows:
- Geological activity resulting from:
○ Abrupt collapse of the ground cover;
○ Depression in the ground cover visible to the naked eye;
○ Structural damage to the building; and
○ Insured structure being condemned and ordered to be vacated by a government agency.
All damage that does not meet these requirements is only covered if the homeowner has specifically opted for sinkhole insurance as an addendum or rider to their homeowners insurance policy. Property owners who choose to not purchase this additional coverage may find themselves with no coverage for the damages. When faced with these difficulties, homeowners should secure the services of an experienced lawyer to assist with the insurance company dispute.
If you are in a dispute with your insurance company, regarding sinkhole damages, contact the legal team of Pita & Del Prado in Miami for knowledgeable and skillful representation. Call the office today at 305-670-2889 for a free consultation.