All across Florida, the ground is giving way as gaping holes are opening in backyards, homes and apartments, schoolyards, and roadways. The culprits are sinkholes caused in part by the extra water from Hurricane Irma. Like hurricanes, sinkholes evolve from the action of water on rock, dissolving it, and when hurricanes bring more water, more sinkholes present themselves. When you introduce the stress associated with hurricanes, sinkholes are not far behind.

Irma’s soaking, torrential rains have made the ground so heavy that in some places it’s collapsing into underground voids causing sinkholes. Heavy rains and flooding can often accelerate the phenomenon that is sinkhole activity. This is oftentimes the result of changes in the hydrostatic pressure caused by rising water and tides. We have already received multiple inquiries from property owners and managers who located stress to retaining walls and foundations, especially where the water withdrew before the storm surged back.

Sinkholes are natural occurrences caused by the erosion of bedrock over time. In less than two weeks, there have been at least eight Florida communities affected by sinkholes likely due to Hurricane Irma, usually involving cracking in walls, sidewalks, and ceilings.

Significant rainfall is a key ingredient to causing a sinkhole to open because the water becomes acidic once it is underground and, without proper drainage, can pool in sinkholes. Insurers in the Sunshine State processed close to 25,000 claims for sinkhole damage over the course of four years, according to CNN.

Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the country. However, in excess of 20 percent of the country is above karst terrain (a combination of caves, underground channels, and a rough and bumpy ground surface), according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Other states where sinkholes are common include Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.

If you are dealing with an insurance claim, the deductible for a sinkhole loss is almost always less than that of a hurricane. As such, if the cause is sinkhole loss and not hurricane, all of your benefits change. Consequently, knowing to look for both storm and sinkhole damage can save you tens of thousands of dollars in repairs.

Property owners and property management companies can find themselves at a significant disadvantage when it comes to dealing with their insurance company over the damage caused by sinkhole activity. Insurance companies frequently deny coverage, delay claims, or pay a fraction of the cost of damage to their policyholders when faced with a sinkhole event. A knowledgeable and experienced sinkhole attorney can help assist you with all stages of sinkhole claims. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today for a free consultation.

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