One of the most common questions we get is after someones claim has been denied based on a lack of structural damage how do we proceed for here. There are actually several different paths you could take that depend on the individual homeowners situation. One path is to request the carrier to do the additional sinkhole testing. Upside is it saves money and could give you an idea early on as to whether sinkhole activity is present or not. Plus if sinkhole activity is found to be present by the carriers own engineer that makes it a much tougher case for them to convince a jury to go their way. Downside is if the carrier enforces the statute it could cost the homeowner $2,500 to do the testing and remember that the carrier picks the engineer, not the homeowner.
A second path you could go down is simply evaluate whether the structural damage exists and out the issue of sinkhole activity on the back burner. In that case you would have a second structural engineer evaluate the home and if he or she has a a different opinion and finds that structural damage is present then you proceed with the lawsuit on just that issue. We file these lawsuits as declaratory judgment actions. In other words, you are asking to win a declaration that structural damage is present and that the carrier now has to come test your home for sinkhole activity. Upside is these cases are easier, cheaper and faster to litigate and if you lose you don’t have a finding of sinkhole activity to depreciate the value of your property or make finding new insurance impossible. Downside is even if you win this portion of the litigation you now have to wait for the insurance carrier to do the testing and they may just deny your claim a second time if they don’t believe sinkhole activity is present.
A third path is similar to the second path above where you hire a second structural engineer to evaluate whether structural damage exists or not. This time if the engineer says structural damage does exist you go and do the sinkhole testing on your own and if find sinkhole activity then you can submit the entire claim in one package to the carrier. Upside is you can have all the answers to the claim upfront and only have to pursue one lawsuit. The downside is if you lose that lawsuit your home is red flagged as a sinkhole home with no insurance money to help. Every case is different and we evaluate each clients situation and specific facts and goals to evaluate which path is best for you.