Liability for Sinkhole Accidents
More sinkholes open in Florida than in any other state in the country. Sinkholes can cause property damage, they can cause environmental damage, and they can also cause personal injuries — and in some cases, even death. You might be able to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit depending on the circumstances of your sinkhole accident.
What Is a Sinkhole?
Florida law defines a sinkhole as “a landform created by a subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater. A sinkhole forms by collapse into subterranean voids created by dissolution of limestone or dolostone or by subsidence as these strata are dissolved.”
In other words, a sinkhole is a hole in the ground that forms when the surface erodes or collapses. Sinkholes range in size from small cavities to holes large enough to swallow a car or house. Some sinkholes develop gradually and others form without warning. They are often caused, at least indirectly, by human activity, based on how buildings are constructed and where rainwater is concentrated.
Most sinkholes that you hear about are in a road or someone’s yard. But they can also form in water. In June 2018, an Arkansas boater died when a sinkhole opened on a riverbed and created a whirlpool.
When Can I Sue Someone for Sinkhole-Related Damage?
There are several situations when you might be able to hold someone else liable for your sinkhole-related injuries. For example, if you are injured by a sinkhole on someone’s property, you can sue them under the theory of premises liability, which holds homeowners (and business owners) liable for certain injuries sustained on their property. If a property owner knows of a dangerous condition on the property, then the owner has a duty to warn people about it.
Four sinkholes recently opened in a Florida retirement community called The Villages. Some residents have been forced to move out of their homes after government officials deemed them unsafe. Depending on what caused the sinkhole and what the government, community managers, and homeowners do to address the problem, injured residents might be able to sue under a theory of premises liability or general negligence.
When a sinkhole is manmade, you can also sue the negligent actor under general negligence law or the theory of neighborly nuisance. Here is an example of a manmade sinkhole:
In June 2017, a car crashed into a fire hydrant in St. John’s County. The accident opened a sinkhole in the road and almost swallowed the car. If another driver happened upon the sinkhole created by the first car, he or she could probably sue the first driver for damages.
Contact Us Today
Contact a Jacksonville personal injury attorney at The Pendas Law Firm today for a free consultation if you were injured in a sinkhole-related accident. We will examine the facts of your case and help determine if you have a viable personal injury claim.
The Pendas Law Firm also represents clients in the Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, West Palm Beach, Daytona Beach and Bradenton areas.