Frequently Asked Questions About Insurance Claims in Florida

Under Florida law, all insurance companies issuing property insurance in the state must make available insurance coverage for damage caused by sinkhole activity. The presentation of a claim for sinkhole damage is a trap for the unwary, so it is always beneficial to retain the services of a qualified attorney to represent you during this process.

What are some signs that I have sinkhole activity on my property?

Not all sinkhole damage is evidenced by huge craters in the ground. The most common types of damage caused by sinkholes include:

- Cracking in your walls, floor, pavement or pool deck

- Slumping, sagging or slanting fence posts, trees or other objects

- Inability of doors and windows to close properly

- Fresh exposures on fence posts, foundations and trees

- Small, circular patches of wilting vegetation

- Formation of small ponds after it rains, where water has not collected before

  1. What should I do if I think I am the victim of a sinkhole?

    Under law, your insurance company has the obligation to thoroughly investigate any damage claimed to be the result of sinkhole activity. Upon notification of a sinkhole loss claim, the insurance company must make an inspection of your premises to make an initial determination as to whether the damage to your property is the result of sinkhole activity.
    If, upon the initial investigation, the insurance company discovers damage consistent with sinkhole activity, it must obtain and pay for a qualified expert to investigate the damage and to issue a written certification as to whether he believes the damage was caused by a sinkhole.
  2. How can a lawyer help?
    Numerous problems can arise during the homeowner's presentation of a claim for sinkhole-related damages. The insurance companies have numerous methods by which they may attempt to deny your claim. The most obvious method is to have the expert issue an opinion that the damage to your structure was solely caused by some action other than sinkhole activity, such as earth movements or "shrink-swell clays."
    Second, investigations undertaken by the insurance company's experts are often incomplete or inadequate to properly diagnose the cause of the damage. After receiving these incomplete or inadequate reports, the insurance company will feel justified in denying an otherwise valid claim. Insurance companies will also attempt to offer undervalued settlements or incomplete repair methods to resolve the matter.

    For most people, their homes are the biggest investment they will ever make. Most homeowners have never had the experience of asserting a claim against their insurance company – especially with regard to the preservation of their dwelling. Our attorneys and staff will work hard to ensure that your claim is fully evaluated by experienced experts and that your claim will result in the best possible structural repairs and/or monetary settlement possible.
  3. Who will pay for my legal representation?
    Our firm always accepts these cases on a contingency fee basis. In other words, should we not obtain a recovery on your behalf, you will not owe us any fees or costs for our representation of you.

    Additionally, under Florida law, if the insurance company wrongfully denied your claim, the insurance company may be liable for further reimbursement of the cost of presenting your claim.
  4. What is a sinkhole?

    Sinkholes are a natural and common geologic feature in central Florida and eastern Tennessee. Sinkholes are formed when rain dissolves underground limestone or when surface materials collapse into underlying cavities in the rock. Abrupt collapse-type sinkholes have become more common over the past 25 years primarily due to activities of humans such as withdrawal of groundwater, diversion of surface water or construction of ponds.

    Sinkholes come in all sizes. They are unpredictable, but they all develop in basically the same way. As rainwater seeps into the ground, acid in the water dissolves the thick layers of underground limestone that underlie the entire state. This creates big, empty underground holes or gaps. If the layers of sand and dirt, which sit on top of the limestone fall into these holes and gaps, the result is a sinkhole.
  5. What if the insurance company denies my claim?

    If your insurance carrier denies your claim, we will help you gather independent evidence to help prove your claim and we will help you through each level of the appeals process. We will pursue your claim to trial, if necessary.
  6. What if the insurance company confirms sinkhole activity?

    If your insurance company does acknowledge your property has sustained sinkhole damage, we will make sure that all of your damage is covered in the monetary compensation offer. We will not allow the insurance company to undervalue your claim or only offer to cover the cosmetic damages if more substantial repairs are needed. We will pursue your claim through every step of the appeals process and all the way to trial, if necessary.
  7. What if my insurance company only offers to pay for my cosmetic damages?

    If you are only offered compensation to make the cosmetic damages on your property, we will gather independent evaluations to prove that more substantial damage exists and should be covered. Our goal is to ensure that your property is to restore your home to its pre-loss condition so that you can fully enjoy your property and restore its value.

The most common types of damage caused by sinkholes include:

  • Cracking in your walls, floor, pavement or pool deck
  • Slumping, sagging or slanting fence posts, trees or other objects
  • Inability of doors and windows to close properly
  • Fresh exposures on fence posts, foundations and trees
  • Small, circular patches of wilting vegetation
  • Formation of small ponds after it rains, where water has not collected before