Sink Hole Claims
Tampa First Party Insurance Dispute Attorney
Sinkholes are holes in the land's surface that occur throughout certain
counties in Florida. They can be small or large, shallow or deep; however,
they are all caused by the dissolving of limestone beneath the ground's
surface. Sink holes are directly correlated with hydrologic conditions
such as excessive rainfall in a short period of time, or in contrast,
lack of rainfall, or even lowered water levels; all of these can play
a role in the development of a sinkhole. It is believed that a number
of Florida's ponds and lakes are the product of sinkhole formation
that occurred in the past.
Since Florida is home to more than 19,000,000 people, sinkholes are classified
as geologic hazards that have the propensity to cause extensive structural
and road damage, resulting in costly repairs. Sinkholes can also threaten
some of Florida's water supplies by draining unfiltered water from
wetlands, lakes and streams into the underground water supply.
Although sinkholes can be massive, gaping holes greater than 50 feet in
width, it's a common misconception that the only sinkholes that cause
damage are large holes that open up and swallow a home. There are many
cases where a small sinkhole below the home can destabilize the home's
foundation, thus resulting in structural damage.
Florida's Sinkhole Laws
Sinkholes can be a major problem for Florida's residential and commercial
property owners. They can cause cracks in the foundation, sloping floors,
cracks around doors and all throughout different parts of your home or
business, all of which are indicators that your property may be affected
by a sinkhole below the surface. Even smaller, less visible sink holes
can lead to extensive and costly repairs for the property owner.
Sinkholes are a particular cause for concern in west-central Florida, so
much that the state of Florida enacted 2011 Florida Statute 627.706 where
it addresses sinkhole insurance. Under §627.706, every insurer authorized
to sell property insurance in the state of Florida is required to provide
coverage for a catastrophic ground collapse. The insurer must also make
available, for an additional premium, coverage for sinkhole losses on
any structure, including the contents of personal property.
The insurer may require that they inspect the property before they provide
coverage for sinkhole loss coverage and a residential policy may require
a deductible for a sinkhole loss equal to 1%, 2%, 5% or 10% of the policy's
dwelling limits. The insurer may also restrict catastrophic ground cover
collapse and sinkhole loss coverage to the principle building as defined
in the policy.
Sinkhole Loss Coverage v. Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse
Sinkhole loss coverage and catastrophic ground cover collapse are two different
things. Catastrophic ground cover collapse refers to when geological activity
results in a sinkhole that's clearly visible to the naked eye, and
that causes structural damage to the building including the foundation.
The insured structure must be condemned and ordered vacated by a governmental agency.
As a homeowner, it's important to note that catastrophic ground cover
collapse refers to the worst case scenario, where your home is condemned
and you are ordered to vacate the premises. In some cases the insurer
may offer you a policy that excludes coverage for sinkhole losses, in
which case they are required to inform policyholders in bold type stating:
"YOUR POLICY PROVIDES COVERAGE FOR A CATASTROPHIC GROUND COVER COLLAPSE
THAT RESULTS IN THE PROPERTY BEING CONDEMNED AND UNINHABITABLE. OTHERWISE,
YOUR POLICY DOES NOT PROVIDE COVERAGE FOR SINKHOLE LOSSES. YOU MAY PURCHASE
ADDITIONAL COVERAGE FOR SINKHOLE LOOSES FOR AN ADDITIONAL PREMIUM."
(Florida Statute §627.706) This means that some homeowners may opt
out of this additional coverage for sinkhole losses, unless of course
they elect to purchase additional coverage.
Tampa Sinkhole Claims Attorneys
If you believe that sinkhole activity may be affecting your home, you may
feel uneasy about handling the insurance company on your own. Our attorneys
Ernie E. Trichler and Jennifer M. Mandelbaum have an extensive background
working in insurance defense and also acting as in-house counsel. Our
insider perspective on the insurance industry allows us to quickly interpret
your insurance policy and your coverage limits. We are more than willing
to closely review your insurance policy and have your property examined
by experts if we believe you have a strong case, and from that point forward
we can provide a strong and compelling argument on your behalf.
When your home is perhaps the largest investment of your life, you deserve
to have an ally with knowledge and experience of the insurance industry
fighting for the future of your home and your wallet.
Contact a Tampa sinkhole claim lawyer from our firm to discuss your sinkhole claim at (813) 862-1029.