Florida Sinkhole Lawyer
Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the country. Up until 2007, Florida homeowners were mandated to purchase their own sinkhole insurance for their home to protect against structural damage and non-catastrophic events; however, a change in the law now requires insurance companies to cover homeowners under certain circumstances. Florida Statutes 627.706, requires insurance companies to provide coverage for catastrophic ground cover collapse. To have it be considered as catastrophic ground cover collapse it must be an abrupt collapse in the ground cover; the depression must be clearly visible to the naked eye; there must be accompanying structural damage to the building; and as a result, the building must be vacated and condemned by a governmental agency allowed by law to do so. In order to have any damage less than that covered by insurance, a policyholder must pay a premium on their insurance and those policies are not always as clear about what constitutes a valid claim. As a result, insurance companies are now denying coverage or paying a fraction of the cost of damage to their policyholders. The experienced Florida sinkhole lawyer at The Pendas Law Firm have a history of success of getting their clients the compensation that they deserve, and can assist clients in a similar situation. We have offices in Orlando, Fort Myers, Tampa, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale & Miami.
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What is a Sinkhole?
A sinkhole is a depression or hole in the ground that has no natural external surface drainage. In karst areas, where the subsurface is made up of rock that can be naturally dissolved by the groundwater circulating through them, sinkholes are much more common. Karst rocks include salt beds and domes, gypsum, limestone, and other carbonate rock.
When rainfall and subsurface water runs through the soil, these rocks begin to dissolve into spaces and caverns underground before it suddenly all collapses. Times of intense rain and intense drought seem to play a role in sinkholes. However, sinkholes can also be induced by human behavior and poor land use practices, especially from groundwater pumping, construction, and other development projects. Sinkhole collapses can range in size and severity. Sinkholes can vary from a few feet to hundreds of acres and from less than one to more than 100 feet deep. In Florida, some areas of the state are more susceptible to sinkholes than others. This includes Hernando, Pasco, Hillsborough, and Pinellas, Miami-Dade, and Broward counties among them. Contact an experienced Florida sinkhole lawyer for more information.
Can Sinkholes be Predicted?
Scientists at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) play a key role in mapping the geology of the United States which can show some of the areas prone to sinkholes due to the topography. However, it is difficult to predict exactly where and when a sinkhole will occur. If you are inspecting a building you can look cracks in the foundation of your building and windows or doors that don’t close properly like they once used to. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors recommends you take note if your utilities are interrupted as that could be a sign the utility lines are damaged due to sinkage. Around a property you can keep an eye out for small holes in the ground, circular cracks, sagging trees or fencing, and pools of water. If you notice any of the following, you should immediately contact your insurance company and professionals who can assess the ground beneath and any structural damage to may exist. In addition, you should begin documenting all changes that occur. Should you have any concerns, Pendas Law Firm is available to answer any questions. Our goal is to help you take the best steps towards keeping your property, and those people around you, safe from sinkholes.
The Dangers of a Sinkhole
The most obvious danger of sinkholes is that they can kill or injure people who fall with the collapse or become trapped underneath building materials that fall. Sinkholes have been known to swallow houses or cars on the road. Another lesser known problem that occurs with sinkholes is that unfiltered water from lakes, wetlands, or streams can contaminate our water supplies.
Types of Sinkholes
There are three main types of sinkholes that cause damage to people and property: collapse sinkholes, subsidence sinkholes, and clay shrinkage.
Also known as cover-collapse sinkholes, this type of sinkhole occurs abruptly. They are frequently triggered by fluctuations in underground water. As water levels fluctuate, the roof of the cavity is weakened. Eventually, the ceiling collapses on the cavity and a sinkhole is formed.
Also known as cover-subsidence sinkholes, this type of sinkhole occurs slowly over time. It is characterized by the ground slowly subsiding or deflating. It can be almost undetectable and form over a long period of time. Subsidence sinkholes are usually only a few feet in diameter and depth.
Certain clay minerals can change dramatically in volume as they absorb and contract with water. Seasonal and annual precipitation changes cause these clays to shrink or expand, and as a result the structures built on these clays may experience significant, damaging movement.
How A Florida Sinkhole Lawyer Can Help
Sinkhole claims have been on the rise since the early 2000s and as a result, insurance companies have been losing money to pay for the damages. In 2011 the Florida Senate passed a bill that requires that the structural damage include the foundation of a building and that the foundation must have moved more than what is allowed for in the building code. Should the insurance company deny a sinkhole claim and the property owner then request testing, the cost of testing can fall partially to the property owner. Under these changes in the law it is increasing difficult to get an insurance company to accept your sinkhole claim.
Insurance companies have entire teams of experts that are prepared to say that your damage is not covered by their policy. An lawyer with experience in sinkhole cases knows the law and can protect your rights against the insurance adjusters. In addition, an experienced lawyer can also ensure that the proper testing was completed by the insurance company before the claim was decided. Finally, an lawyer can complete his own investigation of the sinkhole incident and can negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
If you or someone that you know has been denied their sinkhole claim or been offered a fraction of the compensation deserved in Tampa, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale or Miami area, let the Florida sinkhole lawyers at The Pendas Law Firm help. Reach out to us today so we can begin working immediately.