Sinkholes are holes or depressions in the ground that open up because of a collapse of the surface layer. Sinkholes can be caused by natural or artificial occurrences and have seen to be able to swallow people, cars, and even entire houses.
Because Florida is built upon a large slab of limestone, it is more prone to sinkholes than any other state in the country. In addition, Florida's peninsula is covered by mixtures of sand, clay, and carbonate rocks that form a karst terrain that gives way to wet caves, springs, streams, sinkholes, and other surface depressions.
Sinkhole formations can appear through natural erosion caused by water drainage or man-made influence such as machinated pumping for water, drilling, or excavation.
Since Florida suffers from so many sinkholes, the State Legislature has passed laws regarding sinkhole damage and insurance. The help of an experienced insurance attorney can assist those who have faced the effects of a sinkhole.
Sinkhole Damage Attorney in Sarasota, Florida
If you or a loved one has been affected by the appearance of a sinkhole and need legal advice, it is important to contact an experienced Sarasota insurance attorney.
Germain Law Group has represented countless clients in the Central Florida area, with legal practice experience in a wide range of Florida insurance law. Germain Law Group will fight for your rights and deliver the professional legal service you deserve.
If you need legal representation in the Sarasota area or any of these counties: Manatee County, Pinellas County, DeSoto County, or Hardee County; Germain Law Group will review your case.
Call Germain Law Group today at (941) 316-0333 to schedule a free consultation today.
Florida Statute § 627.706 Sinkhole Insurance
Florida Statute § 627.706 states that every insurer in Florida must provide coverage for catastrophic ground cover collapse. The insurer must also make available coverage for sinkhole losses for any structure, in addition to contents of personal property inside the structure.
The insurer may require inspection of the property before issuing coverage, and may also include a deductible amount applicable to sinkhole losses. Florida Statute § 627.706 defines a sinkhole as a landform created by subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater.
A sinkhole forms by collapse into subterranean voids created by the dissolution of limestone or dolostone or by subsidence as these strata are dissolved.
Also, Florida § 627.706 defines "catastrophic ground cover collapse" under these terms:
- The abrupt collapse of the ground cover;
- A depression in the ground cover clearly visible to the naked eye;
- Structural damage to the covered building, include the foundation;
- The insured structure being condemned and ordered to be vacated by the governmental agency authorized by law to issue such an order for that structure.
As stated, coverage can be applied to contents lost as a result of a catastrophic ground cover collapse. Damage that occurs and only consists of a mere settling or crack of the foundation, structure, or building does not constitute a loss that resulted from a catastrophic ground cover collapse.
Structural Damage as Defined by Florida § 627.706
The severity of damage that occurs to an edifice is important for insurers when considering a sinkhole damage insurance claim. Florida Statute § 627.706 defines structural damage under these terms:
- Interior floor displacement or deflection in excess of acceptable variances such that the interior building structure or members become unfit for service or represents a safety hazard;
- Foundation displacement or deflection in excess of acceptable variances to the primary structural members or systems that prevents the support of loads and forces designed to be supported; to the extent that stresses in those primary structural members exceeds one and one-third the nominal strength;
- Damage that results in the listing, leaning, or buckling of the exterior load-bearing walls or other vertical primary structural member to the extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity does not fall inside the middle one-third of the base;
- Damage that results in the building or portion of the building that contains the primary structural members that cause imminent collapse because of the movement or instability of the ground with the influence zone of the supporting ground.
Sinkhole Reports under Florida Statute § 627.7073
When a sinkhole damage claim is issued, a professional engineer or geologist shall issue a report and certification to the insurer and policyholders stating the results.
Sinkhole damage or loss is verified by the results of the professional engineer or geologist, and will include:
- The structural damage to the covered building has been identified within a reasonable professional probability;
- That the cause of the structural damage is sinkhole activity within a reasonable professional probability;
- The analyses conducted were of sufficient scope to identify sinkhole activity as the cause of damage within a reasonable professional probability;
- A description of the tests performed;
- A recommendation by the professional engineer of methods for stabilizing the land and building and for making repairs.
If there is no structural damage, or sinkhole activity was found not to be the cause of the damage, then the professional engineer will issue a report stating:
- There was no structural damage, or the cause of such damage is not sinkhole activity within a reasonable professional probability;
- The analyses and tests conducted were of sufficient scope to eliminate sinkhole activity as the cause of the structural damage within a reasonable professional probability;
- A statement of the cause of the structural damage within a reasonable professional probability.
The respective findings of the professional engineer or geologist are to be presumed correct. Should repairs be necessary, because of sinkhole damage, then the insurer will pay the claim and will file a report and certification of the claim.
Online Sunshine | Sinkhole Insurance – Visit the official page of the Florida Legislature to learn more about sinkhole insurance, catastrophic ground cover collapse, and other definitions written under Florida Statute § 627.706.
Atlantic | Sinkholes in Florida - This article from the Atlantic provides reasoning behind the seemingly rife sinkhole problem in Florida. Read what professionals and scientist around the country have to say about Florida and its sinkholes.
Find a Sinkhole Attorney in Sarasota, Florida
If your home or belongings have been damaged due to a sinkhole, then contact an experienced Florida insurance attorney to find out about getting the compensation you deserve.
Florida insurance companies must offer their clients the opportunity for sinkhole coverage. Germain Law Group has defended countless clients and has seen, firsthand, the problems that arise in these insurance cases.
Replacing and repairing homes can be extremely expensive, especially if such damage is not covered by a person's homewowner's insurance. It is imperative to find legal representation that will fight for you at every step of the way.
Germain Law Group will review your case if you are in the Sarasota County area, and these surrounding counties: Manatee County, Hardee County, DeSoto County, Highlands County, or Pinellas County.
Call Germain Law Group today at (941) 316-0333 to discuss your legal options.
Meet Our Attorney
Michael B. Germain
Michael B. Germain is the founder of the Germain Law Group. For over a decade, Michael has been involved in litigating insurance claims and complex commercial matters.