Beaches and theme parks aren’t all our state is known for. Florida also experiences more sinkholes than anywhere else in the country. Sinkholes are ground collapses that happen when limestone dissolves, causing the sand or soil above to cave in suddenly. Besides personal injuries, sinkholes are known to cause property damage, for which the principal remedy is filing an insurance claim.
At the Law Offices of Michael B. Brehne, P.A., we understand Florida sinkhole claims from every side. Our sinkhole attorneys know how to protect your rights when filing claims, and if a claim is denied, we can negotiate with the insurance company so you receive appropriate compensation. All too often, insurance providers underpay claims simply to settle and avoid paying out larger amounts. But when it comes to sinkhole damage, low payouts can force homeowners or business owners to use “bandage” solutions, which never truly repair the damage and leaves owners and property at risk. We find this unacceptable, and that’s why we defend our clients’ interests as though they were our own.
If you have a sinkhole on your property, our lawyers in Orlando can help you seek appropriate compensation from your insurer. Keep in mind, Florida law places a time limit on sinkhole claims, so don’t delay and miss out on what you deserve. Contact us today to find out if you have a case.
Why Should I Hire An Attorney For A Sinkhole Claim?
When you file a sinkhole claim, the insurer may attempt to limit your compensation or even deny the claim by contesting the cause of the damage. Hiring a sinkhole attorney from the Law Offices of Michael B. Brehne, P.A. means you have an advocate on your side who understands the science of ground collapses and the sinkhole claim process. Examples of how we can help you include:
- Filing the claim: A clerical mistake could delay your claim or affect the amount of compensation. Our attorneys can review applications before they’re sent. We also work with geologists and hydrologists to pinpoint the causes of a sinkhole, link them to your property damage, and present this evidence compellingly.
- Appealing the claim: It’s in the insurance company’s best interest to pay you as little as possible. If you’ve received less compensation than you deserve, let our insurance dispute attorneys negotiate on your behalf for fair payment.
- Litigating the claim: Our litigators aren't afraid of a courtroom battle. Most insurance companies have powerful legal teams, but we stand toe-to-toe with them to fight for the compensation that’s yours by right.
What Is Florida’s Sinkhole Insurance Law?
To protect themselves financially, Florida residents should be aware of the differences between property insurance and sinkhole insurance. Florida insurance law — statute 627.706 — says property insurance policies, such as homeowners’ insurance, must provide coverage for damage from a “catastrophic ground cover collapse.” However, the definition of this event was narrowed in 2011 by Florida Senate Bill 408. Now, a collapse is only covered by property insurance if it meets these four criteria:
- the ground cover collapsed abruptly
- a depression in the ground is clearly visible
- structural damage occurred to a covered building
- the insured structure was condemned
There’s also a two-year limit for filing sinkhole claims as well as time limits for hiring contractors and completing repairs.
Many policyholders have a claims dispute when sinkhole damage to their home or business doesn’t meet the state’s criteria. Not all sinkholes form abruptly, and not all ground collapses cause structural damage (to a building’s foundation) that forces a building to be condemned. Under current insurance laws, if a sinkhole causes cracks in a home’s floor, ceiling, or walls; or flattens landscaping, these wouldn’t be qualifying losses.
Given the restrictive definition of “ground cover collapses” in Florida insurance law, it’s challenging to file a successful sinkhole claim under your property insurance coverage — this is why many residents have separate sinkhole insurance policies. However, if you believe the sinkhole damage to your property should be covered by your homeowners’ insurance or commercial property insurance coverage, contact our law office in Orlando to receive fair, honest, and informed guidance from our insurance attorneys.
What Does Sinkhole Insurance Cover?
Sinkhole insurance is what’s known as a rider, or an additional coverage option that’s added to your current property insurance policy. The purpose of sinkhole insurance is to cover the damage from any ground collapse that standard property insurance doesn’t cover because it’s not a “catastrophic ground cover collapse.”
Sinkhole insurance coverages can still have limitations, though, and insurance providers will often take advantage of these to unscrupulously withhold money that should rightfully go to the policyholders. Fortunately, our insurance dispute lawyers know which tricks and games insurers play. If you haven’t received all you’re owed, we can file an appeal or a lawsuit to try and provide you with appropriate compensation.
The best sinkhole claims outcomes are the result of people having the right policy from the beginning. When you’re shopping for property insurance, ask if a policy includes sinkhole coverage. If it doesn’t, consider adding a rider and make sure it covers all sinkhole damage. Our attorneys in Orlando can also assist you at all stages of the claims process. Whether you’re filing a claim, disputing how much you’ve been paid, or looking for guidance on how Florida insurance law affects your policy, we’ll make sure you receive the assistance you need.
What If My Property Damage Had Another Cause Besides A Sinkhole?
If your insurance claim was rejected because the insurer said the damage wasn’t caused by a sinkhole directly, don’t automatically accept their version of events. Instead, let our sinkhole claims attorneys review the matter to explore all options. We’ll bring in independent experts, such as geologists and building contractors, to inspect the ground and structure to determine whether the insurer’s assessment is correct. If we can prove the sinkhole was responsible for damage, we’ll appeal the insurance company’s claim denial.
Even if a sinkhole didn't cause the damage, you may still have grounds to collect compensation by filing a lawsuit against the seller or builder of the property. Sellers may be liable for damages if they intentionally withheld or misrepresented information about the property’s condition. Contractors may also face liability for building repairs if the building is still under warranty or it was built on poor soil conditions that weren’t appropriately evaluated.
How Much Does A Sinkhole Lawyer Cost?
The cost of hiring an insurance claims attorney is an investment that typically pays for itself once the insurance company pays your compensation. Our sinkhole attorneys in Orlando, FL, for example, have helped many clients win insurance money they wouldn’t have received without our help. In many settlements, the insurer also covers the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees. Having proper compensation for sinkhole damage also lets you do the correct repairs and avoid costly problems down the road.
If a sinkhole occurs on your property, contact sinkhole attorneys in Orlando with the Law Offices of Michael B. Brehne, P.A. for help filing or appealing your claim today.