Florida Sinkhole Damage Lawyer
For better and for worse, sinkholes are a common feature of the Florida landscape. When groundwater discharges from an underground drainage system into a sinkhole it creates a spring, such as Wakulla Springs, Silver Springs, or Rainbow Springs. Unfortunately, sinkholes can also cause massive destruction to homes and businesses when they appear unexpectedly.
If you are a Florida property owner who suffered damage because of a sinkhole, you may not know what to do next or who to contact for help. If so, you should find the following information helpful.
What Is a Sinkhole?
Sinkholes occur more often in the State of Florida than in any other state. According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), limestones in Florida are porous, allowing the acidic water to percolate through their strata, dissolving some limestone and carrying it away in solution. Over eons of time, this persistent erosional process has created extensive underground voids and drainage systems in much of the carbonate rocks throughout the state. The collapse of overlying sediments into the underground cavities produces sinkholes.
Sinkholes can vary from a few feet to hundreds of acres and from less than 1 to more than 100 feet deep. Typically, sinkholes form so slowly that little change is noticeable, but they can form suddenly when a collapse occurs. The sudden collapse of a sinkhole poses a serious risk to both people and property located near the sinkhole. Even experts cannot always predict where or where a sinkhole is likely to occur; however, they do offer the following signs that a sinkhole may be occurring:
- Cracks in interior joint areas
- Cracks in stucco or exterior block
- Sticking windows and doors
- Yard or street depressions
- Separations, cracks, and gaps in concrete
- Wilting plants
- Neighbors with sinkholes
- Actual cavity-forming
- Foundation cracks
- Settling foundation
- Sloping floors
- Ceiling cracks
- Loss of pool water
What Should I Do If My Property Was Damaged because of a Sinkhole?
Even a small sinkhole that has not collapsed can damage your property. A large collapsed sinkhole can result in complete destruction of your home or business. If your property was damaged or destroyed by a sinkhole, take the following steps:
- Remove yourself and your family immediately. Unfortunately, sinkholes are not predictable, meaning they can expand slowly or rapidly. If you suspect that there is a sinkhole on your property, remove yourself and your loved ones immediately.
- Contact law enforcement if necessary. The FDEP advises you to call 911 immediately if life and property are in immediate danger.
- Contact your insurance company. If life and property are not in immediate danger, or after you have contacted the authorities because immediate danger does exist, contact your insurance company. Your insurance company should have staff trained to evaluate both the damage caused by a sinkhole and the ongoing danger posed by a sinkhole.
- Do not re-enter the home until it is safe. Depending on the size and ongoing threat of a sinkhole, local government agencies may become involved. Do not re-enter your home unless and until authorities tell you it is safe to do so.
- Inventory the damage. If you are told it is safe to re-enter your home, make a preliminary list of the damage to your property. If you are unable to re-enter your home, or the home is completely destroyed, making a list of your losses will be more difficult; however, you should still start working on an inventory.
- Document the damage. Take photographs of the damage sustained because of the sinkhole. If you are able to gather receipts and other documents indicating the value of your losses, do that as well.
Do I Need a Florida Sinkhole Damage Lawyer?
If a sinkhole damaged your property, you understandably expect your insurance company to compensate you for the damage and to pay your claim in a timely manner. Insurance companies, however, are in the business of making money. Consequently, they often deny, delay, or underpay claims related to sinkhole damage. If that happens to you, consult with a Florida sinkhole damage lawyer. An experienced attorney will investigate the damage to your property as well as review your insurance policy. Whenever possible, your lawyer will negotiate a full and fair settlement on your behalf. In the event an out-of-court settlement is not forthcoming, your attorney will litigate your case in court.
Will I Need to File a Lawsuit?
Most insurance dispute claims are settled without the need to file a lawsuit; however, if it is necessary to file a lawsuit your attorney will be prepared to do so and will zealously advocate on your behalf throughout the legal process.
How Much Will a Florida Sinkhole Damage Attorney Cost?
Do not hesitate to contact an attorney when you are having problems with an insurance claim because you are concerned about the cost. A Florida sinkhole damage lawyer will not charge you anything upfront. Instead, your attorney will receive a fee if – and only if – your dispute is successfully resolved, and you receive payment from the insurance company.
Where Can I Get Help with My Florida Sinkhole Damage Claim?
If your property suffered sinkhole damage and your insurance company has denied your claim, underpaid your claim, or there has been an unreasonable delay in paying your claim, call us at 407-500-1000 or submit our online form today. One of our experienced Miami sinkhole damage insurance claims lawyers will explain your rights to you and discuss your legal options at no cost.