Residents of Florida sometimes encounter a threat from sinkholes, which can damage property and injure or kill people. The holes occur more frequently in Florida than any other state. They occur naturally and can form without any obvious warning signs. Florida law includes protections for citizens and insurance companies, but many find these regulations complicated. Read on to learn more about sinkholes, the damages they cause and how the government classifies them, methods available to you for filing a claim, and what you should do in the aftermath of a sinkhole.
What Is a Sinkhole?
When water dissolves land forms of soil, sediment, or rock as foundation, a sink hole occurs. The ground may sink into an underground cave that forms from the water dissolution. Insurers are required to cover a catastrophic ground cover collapse when the ground collapses abruptly, a visible hole or depression appears, structures are damaged, and the government condemns the structures due to the damages.
If your home is damaged by a sinkhole but all four of those conditions are not met, and you do not have sinkhole coverage, an insurance company can deny a claim. All companies insuring homes in Florida must offer sinkhole coverage. However, if the company completes an inspection and finds sinkhole activity on the property or nearby, they may refuse coverage.
Methods for Filing Suit
When sinkholes occur, owners and those injured may file a claim for liability. These claims fall into different categories, based on the circumstances:
Visitors to a home or building who receive injuries because of a sinkhole may file suit against the owner claiming premises liability. Owners must make every effort to keep visitors to their property safe from harm. When an owner is aware of a potential sinkhole forming but does not take action to address the dangerous situation, the injured party can sue the owner for failing to fulfill his or her responsibilities.
Real Estate Fraud
Home sellers must advise potential buyers of sinkhole threats. Although the warning signs of a sinkhole forming can be hard to spot, if a seller knows of a sinkhole and fails to inform the buyer, the seller could bear full liability for the damages.
Sometimes a company or entity near your home sets the stage for the sinkhole to happen, causing the damage to your home. A gas company may be doing maintenance on pipes, for example. A factory could do some work that affects an entire neighborhood. Suing a neighbor may prove the best way for a victim to seek damages.
What Should You Do
If you suspect a sinkhole may exist or be forming near your home, contact a professional service. They can fill some small holes as they form. Others require evacuation and may lead to massive damages.
In the event you suspect a nearby sinkhole caused damage, make sure you ask the local utility companies to inspect your lines. After that, call your insurance company to file your claim. You may want to call an inspector in to help you identify other damages like cracks in your foundation, walls, or ceilings.