Frequently Asked Questions - Sinkhole Claims


What if the insurer hires a geologist to do testing and the geologist concludes there is no sinkhole?


An unbiased expert may disagree with the insurer's determination based upon the test results. When we review a report denying the existence of a sinkhole, but containing indications that a sinkhole may exist, we retain a neutral geologist or geotechnical engineer to conduct a review of the report prepared for the insurer. If our geologist or geotechnical engineer disagrees with the opinions of the expert retained by the insurer after a review of the insurer's report, we have our expert conduct additional testing of the property. If this is indicative of a sinkhole, the attorneys at Wells Law Group, P.A., will take appropriate action for our clients on their sinkhole claim.

What is a sinkhole?


A sinkhole, according to Florida law, is a "landform created by subsidence of soil, sediment or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater." Pursuant to Florida Statute Section 627.706 (1)(h), a sinkhole forms by the collapse of the ground into subterranean voids created by dissolution of limestone or dolostone or by subsidence as these strata are dissolved.

"Sinkhole activity" means settlement or systematic weakening of the earth supporting the covered building only if the settlement or systematic weakening results from contemporaneous movement or raveling of soils, sediments or rock materials into subterranean voids created by the effect of water on a limestone or similar rock formation. (Florida Statute Section 627.706 (1)(i)).

Florida Statute Section 627.706 (1)(j) says "sinkhole loss" means structural damage to the covered building, including the foundation, caused by sinkhole activity. Contents coverage and additional living expenses apply only if there is structural damage to the covered building caused by sinkhole activity.

Learn more about filing a sinkhole claim.

I've heard that the Legislature made drastic changes to the sinkhole laws. Is this true and how does it affect me?

It is true. It should only affect claims when the policy was rewritten after the law went into effect in May 2011. For instance, if your sinkhole claim manifested itself before the date of the new statute, your claim should not be affected, and the policy's definitions should control your claim. If it occurred after, however, and the insurer has rewritten its policy to include the new definition of structural damage, it could have a profound effect. The new sinkhole statute provides a new definition of structural damage that will itself likely be a focus of litigation in future sinkhole claims. The statute provides in Section 627.706 (1)(k):

"Structural damage" means that a covered building, regardless of the date of its construction, has experienced the following:

  1. Interior floor displacement or deflection in excess of acceptable variances as defined in ACI 117-90 or the Florida Building Code, which results in settlement-related damage to the interior such that the interior building structure or members become unfit for service or represents a safety hazard as defined within the Florida Building Code;
  2. Foundation displacement or deflection in excess of acceptable variances as defined in ACI 318-95 or the Florida Building Code, which results in settlement-related damage to the primary structural members or primary structural systems that prevents those members or systems from supporting the loads and forces they were designed to support to the extent that stresses in those primary structural members or primary structural systems exceed one and one-third the nominal strength allowed under the Florida Building Code for new buildings of similar structure, purpose or location;
  3. Damage that results in listing, leaning or buckling of the exterior load-bearing walls or other vertical primary structural members to such an extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity does not fall inside the middle one-third of the base as defined within the Florida Building Code;
  4. Damage that results in the building, or any portion of the building containing primary structural members or primary structural systems, being significantly likely to imminently collapse because of the movement or instability of the ground within the influence zone of the supporting ground within the sheer plane necessary for the purpose of supporting such building as defined within the Florida Building Code; or
  5. Damage occurring on or after Oct. 15, 2005, that qualifies as "substantial structural damage" as defined in the Florida Building Code.
The insurer is asking for a lot of personal information and documents. Do I need to give the insurer all the information it is requesting?


Yes, you have a duty to cooperate and you must provide all the information in your possession the insurer is asking for. If there is information the insurer is seeking that you do not feel it is entitled to, contact an experienced insurance coverage attorney at Wells Law Group, P.A., and we can provide you with guidance.

What should I do if my home is damaged by a sinkhole?


If you think your home or business property is being damaged by a sinkhole, you should notify your insurer immediately. If you do not get a quick response, contact Wells Law Group, P.A., to learn more about recovering damages to repair or rebuild your home.

The insurer is asking for my sworn statement. Why, and do I need to make myself available for the sworn statement?


The insurer has the right to completely investigate your claim. Sometimes it will request a sworn statement, which is within its rights, though a waste of time in most sinkhole cases because sworn statements are usually used to counteract fraudulent claims. Unless there is a coverage issue the carrier needs to resolve (such as a perceived problem with the application or an issue regarding the date of the claim), it is likely doing this to delay your sinkhole claim's resolution. It's pretty hard to fake a sinkhole beneath your home.

You need to attend the examination under oath and answer the questions as truthfully as possible. However, we would always caution a person about giving a sworn statement without an attorney present, which is your right under your policy. (Please note this does not apply in an accident situation where another person's insurance company is demanding to take your statement.)

How long does the insurer have to repair my home?

There is no set time frame. The statutes and cases interpreting this say a reasonable time is required for repair. This will likely vary depending on the facts of each case and other external factors. If you think your insurer is taking too long or is acting in bad faith, contact our firm for a free case evaluation and start protecting your rights.