Sinkhole insurance options explained
Worrying about sinkholes may seem a new nightmare for insomniacs following the tragic Florida story of a sinkhole fatality earlier this month. The ground opened as the man slept, and it continued to expand, making his rescue impossible. With sincere condolences to his family, this sad situation brings an opportunity for perspective.
Sudden collapse of the ground, without any apparent warning, is a very rare occurrence. One news report relays that over the past 45 years, there have been four deaths related to sinkholes in Florida. Compare that to the 62 fatalities related to lightning over a 10-year period and the 2,400 annual traffic fatalities.The incident did revive questions about insurance for sinkholes, and it got many people calling their insurers to see if and how they were covered.
The home in Seffner, FL had insurance, and the claim was paid. If you have a property insurance policy, you have coverage for this level of catastrophic damage, too. Florida has a sinkhole law requiring every property insurer to provide coverage for “catastrophic ground cover collapse,” which is defined as:
- Abrupt collapse of the ground cover,
- A depression in the ground cover clearly visible to the naked eye,
- Structural damage to the insured building, including the foundation, and
- The insured structure being condemned and ordered vacated by the governmental agency authorized to do so.
You’ll need a separate sinkhole insurance policy for any other type of sinkhole damage. So, if your property has had gradual damage, if there is not a visible hole in the ground, if there is no structural damage to your home, and you can still live there, then a “comprehensive sinkhole insurance policy” is needed to pay for any associated repairs.
You may want some background on sinkhole insurance and to know a bit of the history behind sinkhole claims. There also are maps of reported sinkholes by county that should clue you in to the vulnerability of your residence. My residence happens to be within the same county as the Seffner sinkhole, giving me renewed commitment to retaining comprehensive sinkhole coverage.