Sinkhole Claims: Hiring an Attorney
At Morgan and Morgan’s Orlando office, our attorneys understand how to protect our clients’ rights when filing and, if necessary, appealing a sinkhole claim. We have dealt with insurance companies that failed to provide an appropriate amount of money for these claims, forcing our clients to merely “bandage” damaged areas. Our attorneys have also fought insurance companies which denied a sinkhole’s existence without conducting proper ground testing. With years of experience handling sinkhole claims, our attorneys will work to protect you from the money-saving strategies insurance providers use to intimidate Florida property owners and deny valid claims.
If you have a sinkhole on your property, our attorneys may be able to help you receive proper compensation for the damage. Fill out a free case review to find out how we may be able to help with your sinkhole damage claim.
Why Should I Hire an Attorney for My Sinkhole Claim?
Insurance providers will hire experts to look after their interests and expenses when investigating a sinkhole claim. By hiring an experienced sinkhole attorney, your will have a chance to assemble your own team to help ensure both your rights and property are protected. Our Orlando sinkhole lawyers have handled hundreds of claims for sinkhole damage compensation and advise that property owners do not try to negotiate with the insurance company on their own.
Filing a Sinkhole Claim
The first step in filing a sinkhole claim is to call the insurance company and alert them to the sinkhole. Once an insurance adjuster is assigned to the claim, he or she will document their inspection of the area. After information is collected from the home and/or property owner, the claimant’s insurance company will typically send a geologist or geotechnical engineer to conduct tests at the property. The experts’ inspection will determine if a sinkhole is present. The testing may take several days or weeks. Once a sinkhole’s presence is established, the insurance company will request repair estimates and send the claimant a letter either confirming or denying the claim.
Why Was My Sinkhole Damage Claim Denied?
When an insurance company denies a sinkhole damage claim, the claimant, with the help of their attorney, will determine answers to the following:
- What type of testing was conducted?
- Was the claim denied without drilling?
- Has any information regarding the claim been overlooked?
In some cases, insurance companies may skip standard testing procedures required under Florida law. They may conduct a “drive-by” test, instead of utilizing industry-proven geophysical testing techniques such as ground penetrating radar, electrical resistivity testing, or a standard penetration test. Failure to properly test for sinkhole activity may constitute a breach of policy and may entitle the homeowner to immediate legal action.
When an insurance company denies the presence of sinkhole damage, the property owner can hire experts not associated with any insurance company to come and retest the suspected or obvious sinkhole area. These experts may suggest that the property owner get estimates on repairs to the affected property areas to pass along to their insurance provider.
Sinkhole Insurance Law in Florida
It was mandatory for Florida residents to purchase their own sinkhole insurance for structural damage and non-catastrophic events until 2007. That year, a new law mandated that insurance companies cover the cost of sinkhole coverage, although the companies lobbied for years for it to be excluded from property owners’ policies. Floridians are now only forced to buy insurance for catastrophic ground collapses. Catastrophic problems are defined as:
- The abrupt collapse of the ground
- A depression in the ground cover clearly visible to the naked eye
- Structural damage to a building
- Any instance where the insured structure must be ordered to vacate and be condemned
One discrepancy in the Florida sinkhole law is that it makes it easier for insurers to pay less than they should or outright refuse to pay their policy holders when sinkhole damage is prevalent. For this reason, it is important to hire an attorney if there is a sinkhole on your property.
Sinkholes are very common in Northern and Central Florida as a result of both human activity and the state’s natural topography. Most of Florida’s topography is comprised of a thin layer of sand and clay covering limestone. Rain and circulating groundwater soften this underground limestone and form cavities and crevices in the rock, which are filled by the overlying sand and clay. Pressure from buildings, roads, and water, combined with the caverns formed from the dissolved underground rock, leaves a weak crust prone to fail under pressure.
Although sinkholes are largely unpredictable, warning signs may be present. In the event of weakening ground or foundation, you may see the following:
- The ground begins to splinter
- Dried or dying vegetation
- Excessive standing water
- Doors and windows fail to close properly
- Exposure of previously hidden tree roots
- Trees, fences, and anything affixed to the ground beginning to lean
- Cracking of foundation, interior and exterior walls, driveways, porches, decks, ceilings, and floors
- Unusual water stains
- Unexplained loud noises (as one’s house begins pulling apart and sinking)
If your home was damaged by a sinkhole in Orlando or the surrounding areas, contact our attorneys today to find out how we may be able to help you.