Florida insurance claims remain low, but sinkholes still cause damage

The last seven years of relatively little storm damage in Florida has led to an expected surplus at the end of the year for Florida’s last-resort insurer, Citizens.

In fact, the Palm Beach Post reports that a recently release report indicates Citizens has only paid $32.3 million for 10,725 storm claims through October 31 of this year – which has helped contribute to this year’s projected surplus of $350 million.

Almost mimicking this trend, Florida sinkhole claims are experiencing a similar decline – despite the noticeable sinkhole claim activity on the state’s west coast.

Earlier this year, Tropical Storm Debby left several sinkholes in its wake, but, the Senior Director of Claims Operations for Citizens, David Boyle, was recently reported by WFSU News as saying that sinkhole claims only represented 3.8 percent of all claims through September of this year – compared to over 6 percent for the entire year of 2011.

Florida sinkholes

Although the recent decrease in Florida sinkhole activity is likely a welcomed reprieve for most Florida homeowners, it is only a matter of time until these geological hazards begin to show their heads again. After all, Tropical Storm Debby showed just how easily and quickly Florida sinkholes can be unearthed.

For instance, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) reports that in addition to heavy rainfalls, sinkholes can be exposed by heavy groundwater pumping, new construction, blasting, heavy ground loading or even drought.

If homeowners are concerned that there may be potential sinkholes on their property, the DEP does provide advice on how homeowners can potentially gauge their individual risk. For example, homeowners can hire professional geologists or geo-technical engineering consultants to test their property in an effort to find underground caverns or voids that might eventually become sinkholes. These tests can involve borings or ground-penetrating radars, but unfortunately the tests are not always definitive as geology and the water table can impact results.

Consequently, even if a homeowner tests their property for sinkholes, there is no guarantee the property will never suffer from sinkhole damage. Accordingly, it is important for Florida homeowners to verify that they have sinkhole insurance coverage as even a single sinkhole can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Also, if you are a homeowner who has experienced firsthand the damage that sinkholes can cause, but your insurance company is offering a lowball settlement, it may be helpful to speak with an experienced sinkhole damage attorney to be advised of your possible rights and options.