Sinkholes literally open up anywhere in this part of the state, sometimes with catastrophic and deadly results. Not surprisingly, literally thousands and thousands of homeowners have asserted claims with their homeowners insurers for sinkhole damage to their homes.
Unfortunately, the insurance lobby has slowly restricted and eroded the protections available to homeowners, making it more difficult to bring a claim for sinkhole damage. Sinkhole coverage used to be mandatory in all homeowners policies in Florida, but the law changed a few years ago. Now, many insurers no longer offer sinkhole coverage.
Another change the insurance companies pushed through the Florida Legislature in 2011 makes it even more difficult to bring a claim for sinkhole damage, even if you have sinkhole coverage. Before 2011, insurance policies provided coverage when there was “structural damage” to the home caused by sinkhole activity. Courts gave that phrase its literal meaning, i.e., damage to the structure, which would include cracking in walls and floors.
With the 2011 change to the statute, “structural damage” now has a very hypertechnical definition that only a very small percentage of damaged homes could meet. In other words, you may have clear damage from sinkhole activity in your home, but if that damage does not meet the strict definition of “structural damage,” then the insurance company will not pay you.
The laws governing sinkhole claims are very complex and ever-changing. If you are relying on your insurance company to guide you through that complexity and do the right thing for you, just remember that it is the insurance companies that changed the laws to make it harder for you to bring a claim for sinkhole damage. If you think you have sinkhole damage, consult with an attorney.