Attorney Ted Corless is on the scene investigating the latest large sinkhole incident in the State of Florida. A large sinkhole opened on the morning of July 14 and it has already swallowed two homes. Authorities are scrambling to keep people safe from the massive, fast-growing sinkhole. Corless learned repairs were done on the sinkhole before this incident with grout, which is a less effective way to treat sinkhole activity in an effort to save money. The sinkhole was estimated to be 200 to 250 feet wide and 50 feet deep and appeared to be moving toward a nearby lake. For a free consultation regarding your sinkhole claim, call 813-258-4998 or 877-517-5595.
I submitted a claim 2 months ago, and waiting for Citizens Property Insurance to provide me information about my sinkhole claim.
I am aware of at least 2 confirmed sinkholes in my neighborhood, one which is directly next door to our home. Should I tell them about this other sinkhole or keep my mouth shut?
In the context of an insurance claim, more information is always better.
Insurance companies are aware of the scientific and practical relevance of sinkholes adjacent to a home under investigation. I use the term “practical” because it is very difficult for an insurance company to deny a claim when there is a sinkhole either directly next to or in front of a confirmed home, especially when they are involved in the claim.
Even in cases where there is minimal evidence of sinkhole activity, it can be very difficult for an insurance company to defend a case on a disputed sinkhole when there is a sinkhole on an adjacent property. This is because sinkholes do not know man-made boundaries and jurors place enormous weight on this evidence.
Get Your Neighbor”s Engineering Reports
If you are able to obtain a copy of the engineering reports and provide them to the insurance company, this would be wise. If you are not able to get a copy of the previous reports, but do know the addresses, you may want to at least provide this to the company. As always, put this information in writing, and present it in a constructive manner to the insurance company.
In providing information to your insurance company, your motives are obvious (i.e. “cover my loss”), but that does not mean it is not wise to provide them good information upon which a positive conclusion can be made for you. Later, if the insurance company fails to investigate this new information, this can be important information to a jury that they intentionally ignored information which would be helpful to the engineer they retained to investigate your home.
Read our tips on filling out a sinkhole claim.
Have a burning question you’d like to ask about sinkholes? Let us know.
Heavy rains = sinkholes
Water has been called the fuel that drives sinkhole activity. In fact, in the definition of sinkhole activity provided under Florida Statutes, the term “sinkhole” is the action of water on limestone or other similar rock formation.
Water is not, in most situations, a neutral actor, as it usually acidic or basic, and can act to dissolve rock over time. Therefore, sinkholes can form when we receive heavy, consistent rainstorms.
Why does heavy rain cause sinkholes to form?
Water percolating through soil completely alters the characteristics of the soil. Although some soil material is compacted, the addition of water acts to “reorient” or change the density of the material. This usually happens only in the shallow soil, as the deeper material is still under the pressure of the soil above it. Due to the chemicals in rainfall and how they respond to the soil underground, the earth is weakened.
In a lot of ways, the soil is acting not as a solid material but as a dynamic material reacting to the climate changes. When those changes are dramatic during heavy summer rains, more changes are often observed in the homes.
Does heavy rain always mean sinkholes?
While one shouldn’t necessarily assume a sinkhole will open after heavy rains, it is safe to be aware of any sinkholes that open in surrounding areas. This is because the increase in water also acts to create more disputes regarding the causes of damage.
For example, when there is an increase in the water on soil material, the water can also trigger other, unrelated soil conditions. These include associations with active “shrink-swell clay,” which often masks sinkhole conditions at a property.
The increase in water also causes the loosening of sand, which can also mask conditions more likely to be the result of the sinkhole.
Suffice to say, if you’re in an area where sinkholes are common, or your neighbors are experiencing sinkholes after heavy rains, do not hesitate to contact your insurance company to provide an engineer, even if the physical effects of a sinkhole do not seem to present themselves.