This is the second part of our two-installment blog post answering question our law firm often receives about sinkholes and sinkhole insurance claims. While this blog answers many questions, the outcome of any particular claim will be based on its own unique facts and circumstances. If you have concerns because your home has been damaged by sinkhole activity, you should speak to an experienced Miami insurance claims attorney.
What should I do if my home is damaged by a sinkhole?
If your home has been damaged by sinkhole activity, you need to provide timely notice to your insurance carrier to protect your right to pursue an insurance claim. The insurer has a duty to undertake a thorough investigation, but the investigation cannot commence until you notify your insurer of your sinkhole claim. Further, a delay in providing notice will often be asserted by the insurer as a basis for denying a claim.
How can an experienced insurance attorney help with my sinkhole claim?
Insurance companies use a multitude of excuses to deny sinkhole claims. One of the most common grounds for denying such a claim is to hire an expert to prepare a report indicating the cause of the damage is something other than sinkhole activity. An expert might indicate that the cause of the damage is “earth movement” or “shrink-swell clays,” which are not covered by the policy. These conclusions are frequently based on inadequate investigations that conveniently favor the insurer. Insurers routinely attempt to provide undervalued settlements or cheap and unsatisfactory repair options.
If you have a lawyer with experience taking on your insurance company in sinkhole claims, the attorney will be familiar with these types of defense strategies. Our Miami insurance coverage law firm also works with engineers, geologists, contractors and other highly respected experts, so we can develop persuasive evidence to prevent undervalued settlements and incomplete repair methods.
How do I determine if my property is damaged by sinkhole activity?
There are a number of signs of sinkhole activity even if you do not have a large crater on your property. Examples of these types of evidence include:
- Slanting trees, fence posts and other objects
- Circular patches of wilting foliage
- Cracks in flat surfaces like floor slabs, walls and pavement
- Pooling of waters in small quasi-ponds after a storm where water does not typically accumulate
- Shifting in door and window frames so that they do not close properly
Should I be concerned if a sinkhole develops in my neighbor’s yard?
While sinkholes can appear in sets, this is fairly rare. The bedrock under the surface of land in Florida is honeycombed with cavities, but most will not collapse during our lifetime. If you inspect your property for any soft areas or sinking, this is probably sufficient to dispel such concerns. In most cases, you will not need to be concerned unless it is a large sinkhole that overlaps your property.
Can a sinkhole be caused by frequent watering of my property because it lowers the water table level?
While changes in the water table can contribute to sinkholes, private lawn wells are not typically sufficient to cause a sinkhole. However, there are other causes that might change the water table enough to trigger a sinkhole, such as blasting, new construction, extensive extraction of groundwater, torrential rains and drought.
How can I pay for my insurance coverage attorney and litigation expenses?
Generally, our law firm will pursue cases against insurance companies based on a contingency fee basis. This means that our client does not pay attorney fees unless we prevail in the case. We are paid out of any recovery through a settlement or judgment. Our Florida insurance coverage firm also advances the costs of pursuing the case in most situations.
If you have questions about Florida insurance claims, you are welcome to contact my Florida insurance claims dispute law firm. My law firm represents policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM.