Tag Archives: sinkholes and hurricanes

How Does Sinkhole Damage Differ from Hurricane Storm Damage?

My home was damaged during the ugly storm season of 2004, by the wind.  We never did file a claim.  Now, we see damage that looks more likely to be settlement.  How does sinkhole damage differ from that caused by hurricane and other storm damage?

Storm damage and sinkhole damage presents in entirely different ways.  Storm damage is often referred to as impact damage because the damage is causing the walls to move or to suffer impact from the increase flow of air.

Additionally, homes can be damaged in storms due to the impact of debris upon the home, damaging windows as well as walls.  Conversely, settlement damage caused by sinkhole settlement results from a loss of support the home when the foundation sinks or moves unevenly.

Can You See Stair Steps?

Sinkhole damage usually appears in a stair step pattern, as opposed to the diagonal but straight damage lines caused by storms.  The stair step damage of sinkholes so tends to follow the mortar joints of the walls, while storm damage tends to ignore these boundaries and can even caused damage to the bricks and mortar themselves.

Overall, because a named storm enters your area, it is always a good idea to conduct an exterior audit of your home,  to determine if any damage is present.  Use of digital and video cameras programmed with the dateline code and time will help provide proactive documentation.  That way, if there is a storm, you can document that the damage to the home was not present when the storm hit.

Whether a storm is the cause of the damage or whether it is a sinkhole is important because these two losses are paid in different ways, and may be subject to different deductibles.  For example, sinkhole losses have a flat, predetermined amount ($500, $1,000), while hurricanes have a percentage of the total insurance coverage available (e.g. 1 percent, 5 percent).

Have a burning question you’d like to ask about sinkholes? Let us know.

Sinkhole Claims and Hurricane Season

Pending sinkhole claim vs. hurricane

Question: Hurricane season is just weeks away, and my wife and I are in the middle of a sinkhole claim with our insurance company. Theoretically, what would happen to our claim if a storm were to hit while the claim is pending?

If a hurricane hits

This was a major problem for insureds during the 2004 storm season in Florida. Consider not just the possibility of multiple causes, as you have described, but also the possibility of multiple hurricanes.

In general terms, your home is insured for sinkhole damage, which is why you have the claim pending. Additionally, it is insured for hurricane damage as well. These causes are subject to different deductibles, and many other conditions under your insurance policy.

The fact is, even if your home were to suffer two different perils (here, sinkhole and storm), you are entitled to open up two different claims at the same time. In some situations, you might even be entitled to two separate payments for the limits of your policy. These are general concepts, but here are some guiding principles.

What to know about combining insurance claims

First, you cannot get paid twice for the same damage. If you have cracks in your stucco due to sinkhole settlement, you can get paid for it. You cannot also submit this same damage for payment under the hurricane claim.

However, sinkhole repairs are unique and could be paid for subsurface repairs under a different set of coverage limits. Suffice to say, these claims are complicated, but do happen regularly.

Take preventative measures

I would urge you to document all of the damage to your home and to ask for a copy of any cosmetic estimates prepared to date by your insurance company. Keep these in a safe place, away from the home. Also, consider reading our tips on filing a sinkhole claim.