As South Florida homeowners insurance claims attorneys, we are very familiar with sinkholes. Sinkhole damage is a common problem in Florida as many Floridians are aware. Folks moving to the area for retirement or purchasing vacation homes are learning a hard lesson about the havoc a sinkhole can reap. According to the Tampa Bay Times, once the Florida legislature amended its sinkhole insurance coverage law in 2011, finding adequate coverage for sinkhole damage has proved difficult. Before 2011, however, getting compensation for your sinkhole claim was very easy. Now, the newspaper reports, insurance companies hire contractors who render favorable opinions for the insurance company, to the detriment of homeowners.
Despite the apparent difficulties, Florida homeowners should consider purchasing sinkhole coverage as an individual rider on their homeowner’s policy. Sinkhole coverage is an add-on to your policy, unlike catastrophic ground collapse which is covered by your standard homeowner’s policy. Sinkhole damage, not amounting to catastrophic ground collapse, usually causes cracks in foundations, walls, and floors. Also, the home can shift if the sinkhole opens deep enough. The problem with the amended law is that insurance companies, in particular, the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, is no longer obligated to compensate homeowners adequately for their loss. Homes are losing their value because of sinkhole damage for which the insurance company refuses to reimburse.
A statute governs Florida’s sinkhole insurance coverage. The law imposes a duty upon insurance companies to investigate a claim of damage relating to a sinkhole. First, the insurance company must inspect the premises to make sure that a sinkhole caused the structural damage that formed the basis of the claim. Secondly, if the insurer finds evidence of damage consistent with a sinkhole but cannot find proof of a sinkhole, then the insurance company must hire a geologist or engineer to investigate the reason for the loss. The geologist or engineer issues a report to the insurance company if a sinkhole made the damage and the loss is covered by the homeowner’s insurance policy. It is important to note that the insurance company must pay the costs and fees associated with the professional inspection.
After an independent professional, such as a geologist or engineer, renders an opinion, then the insurer must send a letter to the homeowner supplying information mandated by the statute. The insurer must state the cause of the damage if known. Next, the company must inform the owner under what circumstances the company must hire an independent professional to render an opinion to either confirm or deny the presence of a sinkhole. Also, the letter must contain a statement that the professional will make recommendations about restoring and repairing the building as well as stabilizing the ground around the home. Lastly, the correspondence must inform the homeowner of the homeowner’s right to hire a professional to perform testing, under what circumstances the owner may demand to test, and what costs the homeowner will incur by requesting testing.
The insurance company can pay the claim or reject the claim. If the insurance company receives an opinion from a professional that a sinkhole did not cause the damage, then the company denies the claim. The homeowner could demand testing if the insurance company denied the claim without testing. The homeowner has 60 days to request the test and will share the costs of testing with the insurance company. The insurance company must pay for the damages if the damage is from a sinkhole.
Sinkhole Damage Can Cause You Financial Ruin
Contact Miami homeowners insurance claim attorneys if your insurance company refuses to pay your claim. Let South Florida’s Top law firm – as voted by the Miami Herald – Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano, represent you with your homeowner’s insurance policy claim. The attorneys at Greenberg, Stone, and & Urbano have over 130 years of combined legal experience at your service. Call the South Florida homeowners insurance claim attorneys at Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano – an AV-rated firm by Martindale-Hubbell – today at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 to schedule your free consultation.