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Sinkhole Occurrences Highest in Florida

SinkholePoster.gifFlorida’s weather and lack of a state income tax make it one of the most ideal places for people to live in. However, there is one thing that happens in Florida that many are unaware of – sinkholes.

Even though most Floridians are unaware of them, Florida has the highest occurrence of sinkholes in the country.

Sinkholes develop when water moves through the underground layer of limestone. This layer is right below the surface. As the water continues to move through the small holes found in limestone, the holes enlarge and the rock eventually dissolves. In extreme cases, a sinkhole can grow 40 to 60 feet deep and wide.

Part of the reason for the surge in sinkhole claims is due in large part to the recent explosion in real estate development throughout Florida, and especially in South Florida. Over development has left the ground susceptible to sinkholes. Plus, while sinkholes occur in other U.S. states, Florida is more prone to sinkhole related problems because of underground limestone that dissolves under certain conditions, especially in areas that have been over developed, according to many leading geologists.

If you suspect your property is sitting on top of a sinkhole, its your responsibility to immediately notify your insurer. Florida law requires insurance companies to cover damage caused by a sinkhole.

As we’ve previously discussed, Florida lawmakers passed a new law this past session that required insurers to provide coverage. However, there is a two-year claims deadline (down from five).

So, how would you know if you’re property is sitting on a sinkhole? Here are some clues: your neighbors have a sinkhole; cracking in your walls, floor, or pavement; doors or windows no longer closing properly; small hole in your yard; and, small pond formation where water has not collected before.

Given our extensive experience litigating for, and against, insurance companies, our insurance litigation practice group is prepared to provide aggressive, efficient and effective representation on a broad spectrum of insurance claims in Florida for local, national, and international clients. We are prepared to advocate insurance claims at the pre-suit stage, trial, appellate and arbitration levels.

If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
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Consider Your Options. Contact Us Today.

Before opening our law firm in 2006, our attorneys worked for some of the state’s, and nation’s, largest law firms, and worked representing the insurance companies for years. Our attorneys are now uniquely positioned to use that experience to assist individuals and businesses alike throughout Florida with their insurance claims. As a result, our attorneys are well versed in the impact insurance has on businesses, condominiums, and individuals alike. Our insurance litigation practice group is prepared to tackle your insurance claim.

Given our extensive experience litigating for, and against, insurance companies, our insurance litigation practice group is prepared to provide aggressive, efficient and effective representation on a broad spectrum of insurance claims in Florida for local, national, and international clients. We are prepared to advocate insurance claims at the pre-suit stage, trial, appellate and arbitration levels.

If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Call us today toll free at 1-866-518-2913 or at 305-263-7700.

About the AuthorGabriel de las Salas is an attorney with the law firm of Alvarez & Barbara, LLP. His practice is focused on general civil and commercial litigation, including personal injury, insurance claims and real estate disputes. Mr. de las Salas received his B.A., cum laude, from the University of Florida, and his J.D., from Stetson University College of Law.

Florida’s Legislators Were Motivated to Reform Property Insurance Due to a Recent Rise in Sinkhole Claims

sinkhole.jpgInsurance companies may have won another battle to raise rates on hard working Floridians. They may have convinced Florida’s lawmakers to free them from providing comprehensive sinkhole coverage. Even though there is evidence which demonstrates that the rise in sinkhole claims are wholly legitimate, our legislators decided to side with insurance companies complaining about fraud and frivolous sinkhole claims. According to geologists, the recent rise in sinkhole reports can be attributed to the weather.

According to one geologist, you can almost predict sinkholes will occur when its dry and lots of water is pumped into an area. Also, the combination of low water levels and a big rain will lead to sinkholes. To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at some facts.

Between 1991 and 1998, we received normal levels of rainfall and 55 sinkholes were reported each year during that time period. From 1999 to 2001, we faced drought conditions and then the average number of reported sinkholes rose to 93 a year. The spike can be attributed to large amounts of water being pumped during the dry spell.

Currently, Hillsborough County is ripe for sinkholes because of the 2010 drought which was followed by a cold winter that saw many farmers pump water to protect their crops. In 2010, there were 171 sinkholes reported to the Department of Environmental Protection. 150 were in Hillsborough.

Despite a wholly innocent explanation for the rise in sinkhole claims, bills are being proposed that would remove the requirement for insurance companies to offer comprehensive sinkhole coverage. Some bills are proposing that insurance companies will only be required to offer coverage for total ground collapse, which basically means a whole structure falls into the sinkhole.

Its quite the shame that our elected officials are not taking into account the opinions of geologists who are providing an honest explanation for the rise in sinkhole claims. Sadly, it appears that our State can’t stand up to an insurance company when they are not telling the whole truth.

At Alvarez & Barbara, LLP we don’t take an insurance company for their word. On a daily basis, we aggressively represent homeowners, and businesses, who need help standing up to their insurance companies when they have been mistreated. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you find yourself having difficulty with your insurance company.

Sinkhole Claims are Driving Property Insurance Reform

4266221777_808f7c2878.jpgThis past week Florida state legislators turned their attention to a problem that is becoming increasingly more expensive: questionable sinkhole claims. These claims are purportedly driving up the costs of insurance premiums for Florida homeowners.

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee heard testimony, but did not take action on the bill which is similar to one that was vetoed by Charlie Crist last year. The bill is aimed at making homeowners’ policies more affordable by establishing a more competitive private insurance market.

Senator Garret Richter of Naples stated that all he was trying to do was let the marketplace work and proposes that the bill would allow consumers to choose the product and insurer they want. Sen. Richter was the legislator who steered the previous insurance bill through the halls of the Florida legislature. Former Gov. Charlie Crist stated he vetoed that bill because it was “not consumer-friendly enough”.

The last major hurricane to hit Florida was in 2005. Since then, sinkhole claims have exponentially increased. In the past three years sinkhole claims have totaled $2 billion. Also, premiums for sinkhole claims have tripled in the last three years for homeowners across the state. However, two-thirds of claims arise from Hernando, Hillsborough, and Pasco Counties.

Some amendments to the bill were challenged because legislators felt they were too favorable to the insurance industry. Senator Mike Fasano of New Port Richey believes that if the reins are loosened too much, insurers will have the ability to refuse to provide sinkhole coverage.

Although the committee adjourned before finishing work on the bill, they plan on starting back up again.
—–
EXTENDED BODY:
Consider Your Options. Contact Us Today.

Before opening our law firm in 2006, our attorneys worked for some of the state’s, and nation’s, largest law firms, and worked representing the insurance companies for years. Our attorneys are now uniquely positioned to use that experience to assist individuals and businesses alike throughout Florida with their insurance claims. As a result, our attorneys are well versed in the impact insurance has on businesses, condominiums, and individuals alike. Our insurance litigation practice group is prepared to tackle your insurance claim.

Given our extensive experience litigating for, and against, insurance companies, our insurance litigation practice group is prepared to provide aggressive, efficient and effective representation on a broad spectrum of insurance claims in Florida for local, national, and international clients. We are prepared to advocate insurance claims at the pre-suit stage, trial, appellate and arbitration levels.

If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Call us today toll free at 1-866-518-2913 or at 305-263-7700.

Florida Sinkhole Claims Are Under Attack by the Insurance Companies

2003-08-18_Sink_hole_in_the_parking_lot.jpgBetween 2006 and 2010 sinkhole claims in Florida have nearly quadrupled. Because of these figures, the Florida Senate Banking and Insurance Committee stated something must be done to curb insurance companies’ sinkhole costs.

Although we haven’t been directly hit by a hurricane in five years, insurance companies have repeatedly asked the state for rate hikes due, in part, to an increase in claims for sinkholes and other damage.

The Office of Insurance Regulation recently conducted a survey of 211 private insurers. It found that in 2006 there were 2,360 sinkhole claims. In 2010, there were 6,694. These claims totaled $1.4 billion.

The Committee has made a few proposals for legislators to consider this coming term. They proposed that a state-run sinkhole repair program should be created. This means homeowners wouldn’t receive checks to repair sinkhole damage, but would have their houses fixed.

It recommends to define what kinds of damage a sinkhole could cause because many of the claims filed have been for damages that are difficult to link directly to a sinkhole. They also suggested limiting coverage to homes and excluding driveways, pools, decks, and other structures.

The Florida Association of Public Insurance Adjusters took issue with many of the recommendations. The Association’s president made the following comments: “While the recommendations for changes in the Florida Building Code have merit, the report as a whole lends great weight to insurance company interests at the expense of Florida homeowners.” He went on to state that “the report appears to be based heavily on unproven allegations by some insurers that the increase in sinkhole claims is somehow fraudulent.”
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EXTENDED BODY:
Consider Your Options. Contact Us Today.

Before opening our law firm in 2006, our attorneys worked for some of the state’s, and nation’s, largest law firms, and worked representing the insurance companies for years. Our attorneys are now uniquely positioned to use that experience to assist individuals and businesses alike throughout Florida with their insurance claims. As a result, our attorneys are well versed in the impact insurance has on businesses, condominiums, and individuals alike. Our insurance litigation practice group is prepared to tackle your insurance claim.

Given our extensive experience litigating for, and against, insurance companies, our insurance litigation practice group is prepared to provide aggressive, efficient and effective representation on a broad spectrum of insurance claims in Florida for local, national, and international clients. We are prepared to advocate insurance claims at the pre-suit stage, trial, appellate and arbitration levels.

If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Call us today toll free at 1-866-518-2913 or at 305-263-7700.

Insurance Companies are Gearing Up to Push Through Legislation That Will Result in Insurance Companies Paying Florida Homeowners Less Money on Sinkhole Claims and Making it Harder for Homeowners to Bring a Claim Against Their Insurance Company

sinkhole-2.jpgIn an effort to reduce costs for insurance companies, the State senate is pushing forward a bill which addresses sinkhole damage claims, as well as other claims.

The new bill is expected to contain many of the provisions found in a bill which was vetoed by Governor Charlie Crist. One of these provisions includes a time limit on filing claims after a hurricane and one which will make the rate approval process easier to navigate. It is also expected to address other cost drivers such as fraud.

The new bill will include provisions targeted at reducing what insurance companies are paying out for sinkhole claims. The insurance industry claims that many sinkhole claims are not legitimate. However, part of the reason for the surge in sinkhole claims is due in large part to the recent explosion in real estate development throughout Florida, especially in South Florida. Over development has left the ground susceptible to sinkholes. Plus, while sinkholes occur in other U.S. states, Florida is more prone to sinkhole related problems because of underground limestone that dissolves under certain conditions, especially in areas that have never been over developed, according to many leading geologists.

The state Senate’s Banking and Insurance Committee is expected to release an interim study on the state’s sinkhole insurance climate. Between 2006 and 2010, $2 billion in claims have been paid out. This payout amount nears the amount paid out in a small hurricane.

Insurance companies are concerned about these costs due to the large number of claims for foundation cracks that are attributed to sinkholes. However, the insurance industry states that these claims may not be sinkhole related. Because insurance companies contend that they cannot often rule out that the damage was caused by a sinkhole, especially in light of all the over development that has taken place over the past few years, tens of thousands of dollars are being paid out by the insurance companies to resolve these claims.

Our Miami insurance dispute lawyers handle sinkhole claims for homeowners. Our attorneys represented insurance companies before 2006, when we opened a firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of consumers. We understand how insurance companies work. And we have the knowledge and experience necessary to represent homeowners in disputes over an insurance claim.

The new bill is expected to contain language which will define structural damage from a sinkhole. It is also expected to contain language on what is and what is not covered by insurance policies. Governor-elect Rick Scott is expected to support this bill which may further regulate public adjusters.
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EXTENDED BODY:
If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP toll free at 866-518-2913 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Florida Legislators Will Tackle Major Property Insurance Reform During the 2011 Legislative Session

regulation.jpgA new property insurance bill is in the works in Florida. Insurers are hoping the new bill will gain the support of new Governor Rick Scott. The new bill could be taken up by the state legislators in early 2011.

Earlier this year, the insurance industry supported a bill which addressed many non-hurricane-related cost drivers for insurers. This bill overwhelmingly passed through the state House and Senate, but was ultimately vetoed by the former governor.

Governor Crist vetoed the bill despite a plea from Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty that he sign the bill into law to cut down on some of the expenses that insurers say is making it hard for them to do business in Florida. Crist, however, called the legislation “anti-consumer” and said it was wrong to allow for rate hikes during tough economic times.

The vetoed bill changed the time period to file claims resulting from hurricane damage. Rather than five years, the bill proposed a 3 year time limit. It proposed regulation of public adjusters. It also gave the Office of Insurance Regulation more oversight over affiliated reinsurers and addressed expedited filings for the cost of reinsurance.

The bill that passed this past year did not address sinkhole claims, which is becoming a bigger and bigger concern for carriers. The final bill also did not include a change in how much in replacement costs insurers must initially pay for personal items. There will likely be a push to address both those issues in a new bill.

Although we haven’t been hit by a substantial hurricane in the last 5 years, nearly 40 percent of property insurers posted surplus losses the first six months of this year. Almost 60 percent of insurers reported underwriting losses.

There is also an initiative specific to Citizens, the State’s insurance company which was created to fill the void created by insurers who stopped insuring homes in Florida. The initiative supposedly proposes changes which would make it harder for residents to get coverage from the last-resort insurer. Citizens has grown to become the second-largest property writer in the State. It has an 11.4 percent market share. State Farm is the largest with a 12.8 percent market share.
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EXTENDED BODY:
Our Miami insurance dispute lawyers handle insurance claims for homeowners. Our attorneys represented insurance companies before 2006, when we opened a firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of consumers. We understand how insurance companies work. And we have the knowledge and experience necessary to represent homeowners in disputes over an insurance claim.

If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP toll free at 866-518-2913 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Florida Sinkhole Claims are on the Rise

Sinkhole.jpgSinkhole claims are on the rise in the state of Florida.

So far this year, 137 sinkhole claims have been filed so far this year in Miami Dade County as compared to 261 claims filed over the previous four years. However, the most sinkhole claims have been filed in the “sinkhole belt” of Pasco, Hernando Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Our Miami insurance dispute lawyers handle sinkhole claims for homeowners. Our attorneys represented insurance companies before 2006, when we opened a firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of consumers. We understand how insurance companies work. And we have the knowledge and experience necessary to represent homeowners in disputes over an insurance claim.

According to a recent briefing by the State of Florida’s Insurance Commissioner, Kevin McCarthy, there have been more than $1 billion dollars paid out on sinkhole claims.

Part of the reason for the surge in sinkhole claims is due in large part to the recent explosion in real estate development throughout Florida, and especially in South Florida. Over development has left the ground susceptible to sinkholes. Plus, while sinkholes occur in other U.S. states, Florida is more prone to sinkhole related problems because of underground limestone that dissolves under certain conditions, especially in areas that have been over developed, according to many leading geologists.

Florida property insurance must cover damage from sinkhole activity. If your property has damage from sinkhole activity, which may include cracks in the walls and foundation, sunken, cracked, or caved in flooring, and holes underneath your home or business, you may be able to obtain money from your insurance company to repair these damages.
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EXTENDED BODY:
If you are facing a dispute over an insurance claim in Florida, contact Alvarez & Barbara, LLP at 305-263-7700 or toll free at 866-518-2913 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

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