Tag Archives: Ocala

Sinkhole Activity Not Limited to Areas of Florida with Limestone

I mostly hear about sinkhole claims in Pasco and Hernando County. I live in the Miami, Dade County area and have noticed some cracking. But I’ve heard that because there’s not limestone in this area, the cracking can’t be the result of sinkhole activity. Is that true?

I believe what you’re alluding to is the fact that people commonly think of sinkholes as dissolved limestone. In fact, the statutes on sinkhole activity, as defined by the State of Florida, do not necessarily limit sinkhole activity to only the dissolution of limestone. (Learn more about Florida’s legal definition of sinkhole.) The definitions mention other rock and underlying strata. It is true that many parts of South Florida and the Dade County or Miami areas “The creation of new primary schools districts is an excellent example of how the borough council continues to invest in our schools districts and their pupils. do no sit on a true layer of limestone but do sit on other forms of rock, which we believe, if suffering from dissolution, satisfy the definition of a sinkhole.

In fact, the primary reason damage due to sinkhole activity is covered by insurance relates to a large, cover collapse sinkhole that occurred in Winter Park, outside of Orlando. Additionally, of all the clients we currently represent, the largest increase in claims has been in the “less expected” areas, such as Ocala (Marion County) and South Florida. There may not be a scientific explanation for this; it could be that there’s just an increased awareness by the property owners.

The focus should be less on whether your cracking could or couldn’t be attributed to sinkhole activity and more on getting whatever is causing the damage resolved. Under Florida law, an insurance company must not only determine whether it is a sinkhole, but also whether or not there is an alternative cause for the damage (e.g. organic soils, clayey soils, construction defects). You may find yourself in a situation where you are presenting minimal evidence of sinkhole activity, but the claim has to be paid because the engineering firm cannot determine the cause of the damage with any reasonable degree of specificity.

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

Tips on Filing a Sinkhole Claim

Do you have any tips on filing sinkhole claims? Any mistakes I should be sure to avoid?

Once you decide to file a sinkhole insurance claim for sinkhole damage, it is very much you against the insurance company. Most of our clients, regardless of whether they are in Ocala or Spring Hill, tell us that they feel an adverse relationship with their insurance company right out of the gate. Unlike water claims or even small fires, confirmed sinkhole activity can cause considerable damage and require the active participation of your insurance company.

Some carriers, like anything else, take better care of their insureds than others. Regardless, there are important tips to consider in filing sinkhole insurance claims like this:

Consider the Safety of Your Family

If the damage to the home is considerable, notify your insurance company that you wish to be moved to another location while the testing requisite to sinkhole insurance claims is pending. In most cases, this is not usually required. While damage can appear rapidly, like it did recently in Hudson, Florida, most sinkhole damage or sinkhole activity does not cause noticeable damage to the home.

Make Sure That All Communication with Your Insurance Company Is in Writing

When we counsel clients who are awaiting sinkhole insurance claim decisions, we confirm everything in writing. The insurance company is noting everything you say, and will likely be asking to record portions of your personal statement. As such, you should confirm everything they tell you as well.

For example, in a recent sinkhole insurance claim in Ocala, we had an insured who could not get the insurance company to conduct an investigation in a timely manner. The insured told us she had been told the investigation would start within a week. The insurance company, however, told us they had told her it would be at least 6 to 8 weeks. At the time they told her it would be a week, confirming it in writing would have made the investigation occur much faster. A lot of times, we serve this role as we act as the voice of the insured, trying to get the claim resolved as quickly as possible.

Read my considerations you should weigh before filing a sinkhole claim.

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

Partial Underpinning Dangerous Approach to Fixing a Sinkhole

Is partial underpinning an adequate approach to fixing sinkhole damage?

Other than denied claims for sinkhole damage (or “sink hole” depending on whom you ask), the most common question relates to how one fixes a sinkhole, whether it be in the yard or beneath the home.

When a sinkhole is fixed by partial underpinning

We spent the better part of a day this week on a case I believe worth writing about. A homeowner we represent in Ocala had a sinkhole “fixed” previously, by the use of grouting and underpinning. However, only part of the perimeter of the home was actually stabilized with underpinning.

Instead of underpinning the entire home, the insurance company’s engineer firm had instructed the insurance company to only authorize the use of six pins, to stabilize one-fourth of the home, where the damage was the worst.

Why partial underpinning doesn’t work

The easiest way to describe this cheaper approach to fixing a sinkhole would be to consider the structure of a dining room table. A table has four legs and a tabletop. The tabletop rests on the four legs, with the weight distributed evenly down the legs. If one of the legs is too short, the table will wobble. If one of the legs is missing then the table will likely fall.

The same principle applies to how to fix a sinkhole. The reason you use underpinning is that you are taking the weight of the home and removing the weight from the surface to a deeper area where the soil is stable. If you only pin portions of the home, you are now altering the weight of the home, with portions of it on the surface and the other weight being moved to the deeper soil material.

The problem is that now you have a two- or three-legged table, with areas moving, and others not. This tends to torque the house and cause other damage.

What engineers believe

We consulted multiple engineering firms – even some who work for insurance companies – and they all agreed that partial pinning was not the best approach to fixing this sinkhole. We presented these opinions to the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation representatives and hoped they listen.

Sinkhole Claims from Sinkhole Activity on the Rise in Ocala

I live in Ocala, and there seem to be a lot more sinkholes than there were a few years ago. Is it my imagination?

No, it’s not just you. Recently we have seen a dramatic increase in sinkhole claims reported in the Ocala area. The homeowners we speak to are often shocked to learn that sinkhole activity is so prevalent in their surrounding area. In one recent case we have come across what, in our experience, is one of the largest sinkholes we have ever seen at a residential property, and it is right in the heart of Ocala. This particular home took nearly five times the grout most homes with sinkhole damage typically will. (Learn more about grouting options.) After the grouting, data indicates that the home’s foundation still remains nearly three and a half inches off level. Unfortunately, the insurance company does not think any more repairs are necessary.

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

Buying a House? Check a Florida Sinkhole Map

Florida sinkhole map

If you own a home, are considering owning a home, or even renting in Florida, sinkholes are very real dangers that need to be accounted for.  If you are unable to predict a sinkhole before a hole opens underneath your home, you can be aware of where sinkholes have already opened and go from there.

Of course, sinkholes are incredibly common all over Florida, due to the heavy rainfall we experience. Unfortunately, sinkhole activity can be present in every region of Florida, and there is no escaping that fact. It is true that some regions show a greater prominence of reported claims. However, keep in mind that there is a difference between claims being reported and sinkhole activity actually being present.

Reference a Florida sinkhole map before you purchase

Therefore, whether you purchase or buy, you want to get a full picture of the property before you settle in; while you may not be directly responsible for a sinkhole opening under a house you rent, you may be displaced or your property damaged, so there is no excuse to stay ignorant!

Fortunately, earthtech.com has a free Florida sinkhole map available – all you need to do is type in your address, your preferred distance, and click ‘search’.

It’s also worth knowing that the greatest area of growth in the discovery of sinkholes would be the Marion County (Ocala) and Alachua County (Gainesville) areas, where more and more homeowners are discovering sinkhole activity.

If you’ve already purchased a sinkhole home

If you’ve purchased a home only to find physical evidence of a forming sinkhole (such as cracks in the walls, soggy foundation, etc.), don’t hesitate to contact your insurance company. If your policy cover sinkholes, your insurance company can send a contractor to investigate the damage and assess the next step forward in preventing a potential catastrophe.

Lake Eaton Sinkhole Spawns Other Sinkholes in Florida

Does the Lake Eaton Sinkhole play a role in the increase in  sinkhole activity in Marion County?

Most areas under investigation for sinkhole activity begin with an analysis of the regional geography around the subject property. However small the area is under investigation, a professional engineer or professional geologist will examine the overall regional influences and conditions, which may give rise to sinkhole activity.

In the Ocala area and in other Marion county areas, nothing could be more telling than the Lake Eaton Sinkhole. This area contains a large, 80 foot deep, 450 wide sinkhole. This area was later developed into the Ocala National Forest, used for outdoor sports, hiking, and a beautiful nature walk. As beautiful as this Ocala-located sinkhole is, it provides probative information regarding the geological conditions in the Marion County area, where sinkhole activity and sinkhole damage may be present.

In our representation of homeowners involved in property insurance disputes over sinkhole damage in the Marion County area, we find most professionals begin with any analysis of the Lake Eaton Sinkhole and describe its relationship to the homes not far away. While sinkhole activity and sinkhole damage has been associated more with the Hernando, Pasco, and Pinellas counties, Marion County is experiencing a considerable increase in the number of sinkhole claims. While the ultimate source of this increase is unknown, it is fair to assume it can be attributed in part to the increased awareness and concerns of the Marion County residents. Recently, a homeowner whose house required one of the most expensive repairs we have seen as property sinkhole insurance lawyers.

What is a sinkhole?

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