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Sinkholes in Florida - Florida sinkhole house buyer.
Florida Sinkhole Laws
Since we have been talking about hiring sinkhole lawyers to represent you in filing sinkhole claims against your insurance company, it is only appropriate to look at some of the laws in the state of Florida regarding sinkhole damages:
Florida Statute 626.155 allows any person to take civil action against an insurer for settling claims improperly or attempting in good faith to settle claims.
All parts under the Florida Statute 626 basically require insurance companies to research and investigate all claims. Insurance companies must provide results of the investigation in writing, or provide an explanation, with facts, for denial of claim. Part of this protects the insured against insurers who fail to provide a written statement that the claim is being investigated, upon the written request of the insured within 30 days after proof-of-loss statements have been completed.
The rules under the Florida Administrative Code concern the proper conduct of the adjuster who investigates the sinkhole damages. The adjuster is allowed to interview any witness, but cannot offer any legal advice nor attempt to negotiate any costs.
Florida Statute Chapter 627 covers property insurance and insurance rates. Florida Statue 627.706 deals with sinkhole insurance and catastrophic ground cover collapse. In part, it reads as follows
(1) Every insurer authorized to transact property insurance in this state shall provide coverage for a catastrophic ground cover collapse and shall make available, for an appropriate additional premium, coverage for sinkhole losses on any structure, including contents of personal property contained therein, to the extent provided in the form to which the coverage attaches. A policy for residential property insurance may include a deductible amount applicable to sinkhole losses equal to 1 percent, 2 percent, 5 percent, or 10 percent of the policy dwelling limits, with appropriate premium discounts offered with each deductible amount.
(2) As used in ss. 627.706-627.7074, and as used in connection with any policy providing coverage for a catastrophic ground cover collapse or for sinkhole losses:
(a) "Catastrophic ground cover collapse" means geological activity that results in all the following:
1. The abrupt collapse of the ground cover;
2. A depression in the ground cover clearly visible to the naked eye;
3. Structural damage to the building, including the foundation; and
4. The insured structure being condemned and ordered to be vacated by the governmental agency authorized by law to issue such an order for that structure.
Contents coverage applies if there is a loss resulting from a catastrophic ground cover collapse. Structural damage consisting merely of the settling or cracking of a foundation, structure, or building does not constitute a loss resulting from a catastrophic ground cover collapse.
(b) "Sinkhole" means a landform created by subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater. A sinkhole may form by collapse into subterranean voids created by dissolution of limestone or dolostone or by subsidence as these strata are dissolved.
(c) "Sinkhole loss" means structural damage to the building, including the foundation, caused by sinkhole activity. Contents coverage shall apply only if there is structural damage to the building caused by sinkhole activity.
(d) "Sinkhole activity" means settlement or systematic weakening of the earth supporting such property only when such settlement or systematic weakening results from 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.
Note that new legislation recently passed has added the following to Florida Statute 627.706:
(5) An insurer offering sinkhole coverage to policyholders before or after the adoption of s. 30, chapter 2007-1, Laws of Florida, may non-renew the policies of policyholders maintaining sinkhole coverage in Pasco County or Hernando County, at the option of the insurer, and provide an offer of coverage to such policyholders which includes catastrophic ground cover collapse and excludes sinkhole coverage. Insurers acting in accordance with this subsection are subject to the following requirements:
(a) Policyholders must be notified that a nonrenewal is for purposes of removing sinkhole coverage, and that the policyholder is still being offered a policy that provides coverage for catastrophic ground cover collapse.
(b) Policyholders must be provided an actuarially reasonable premium credit or discount for the removal of sink hole coverage and provision of only catastrophic ground cover collapse.
(c) Subject to the provisions of this subsection and the insurered proved underwriting or insurability guidelines, the insurer shall provide each policyholder with the opportunity to purchase an endorsement to his or her policy providing sinkhole coverage and may require an inspection of the property before issuance of a sink hole coverage endorsement.
What this means is residents of Florida counties of Pasco and Hernando must pay additionally for sink hole coverage.
Florida laws covering sinkholes and sink hole-related house damage are complicated. If you are involved in a sinkhole claim, you may need the assistance of a sink hole lawyer. A lawyer has the best understanding of the laws and can explain your rights to you.
Insurance companies in Florida are not unfamiliar with homeowners filing claims for sinkhole damaged property. In the past, Florida law required insurance companies to cover the damage to houses caused by sinkhole activity. Since some unscrupulous homeowners took advantage of this law to start filing claims for every little crack or bump on their premises, insurers began rewriting policies with increasingly complicated language regarding sinkhole coverage. Insurance companies also began refusing new policy applications, or dropping old policy holders, if the properties were in a high risk area for sink hole activity.
Even if you do manage to get sinkhole coverage on your insurance policy, the insurer could still deny your claims. This is when hiring a sinkhole lawyer with sink hole litigation experience can be to your benefit. The sinkhole lawyer can help determine if the insurer is being fair or is breaking the stipulations of your homeowners policy. A sinkhole lawyer understands the complicated Florida sinkhole laws, and most importantly, a sinkhole lawyer knows when your rights have been violated.
Don't let insurance agencies deny you the costs for sinkhole repairs that you rightfully deserve. Protect your biggest investment- your home. Hire a sinkhole lawyer if necessary to make sure your rights are being protected. AEA