Fort Lauderdale Sinkhole Lawyer Discusses Liability for Damages Caused by Sinkholes
Even the state government admits that there are more sinkholes in Florida than anywhere else in the country. Sinkholes may appear dramatically all at once or develop slowly over time. Often a hole that appears as a small opening at the surface turns out to be 10 or more feet deep. Of course, it goes without saying that a sudden opening in the ground has the potential to cause severe injuries and significant damage to property.
While sinkholes are a natural phenomenon, they can be triggered or exacerbated by man-made activity. So, who is liable if you are injured in a sinkhole accident, or your property is damaged due to a sinkhole? A Fort Lauderdale sinkhole lawyer explains the legal issues involved.
Personal Injuries Caused by Florida Sinkholes
Even a small indentation in the ground can cause someone to trip and fall, suffering injuries with long-term consequences. The potential for harm in a sinkhole situation is even more significant.
Sinkholes have contributed to car accidents, falls, and other harmful incidents. If you suffered injuries in circumstances involving a sinkhole, it is important to collect evidence to show the cause of the accident and the parties who could be responsible. A Fort Lauderdale sinkhole lawyer can assist with investigating and preserving evidence.
Property Damage Claims Triggered by Sinkhole Accidents
Underground erosion, often accelerated by construction projects that divert groundwater, can cause serious property damage. As the ground sinks, the problems can include:
- Damaged foundations
- Cracks in walls and floors
- Uneven floors
- Cracks in door frames and windows
- Misaligned doors and windows that do not close properly
- Compromised plumbing systems
- Roof damage that can allow water into interior walls
Damaged structures can be difficult to sell because of buyers’ concerns. Buildings with unrepaired sinkhole damage can quickly become uninhabitable. A Fort Lauderdale sinkhole lawyer knows that damage can amount to tens of thousands of dollars very quickly.
Reasons Someone May Be Required to Pay Compensation for Florida Sinkhole Injuries or Damage
Depending on the circumstances, liability for injuries and damage caused by sinkholes may be based on different legal grounds. In many cases, the doctrine of premises liability gives those injured by sinkholes a means to recover compensation for their injuries and suffering. Premises liability holds property owners accountable to harm suffered by guests they invite onto their property or those allowed to visit for social or business purposes. Property owners are expected to keep the premises reasonably safe, and in many situations, they are required to inspect periodically for hazards. If they don’t make inspections or fail to remedy or warn guests about dangers, property owners can be held responsible for injuries that result. So if a property owner had reason to know of a potential sinkhole problem or failed to check for unsafe conditions, they could be required to pay compensation when someone is injured by a sinkhole.
Suppose the integrity of your property is undermined by construction work. In that case, you could have a nuisance claim or other tort action against the construction company or government entity that issued permits to undertake construction. A sinkhole lawyer in Fort Lauderdale can review the situation to determine potentially liable entities.
If a property owner or real estate agent has reason to know of a sinkhole problem at a property and they lie about the issue, someone who purchases that property could have a claim for real estate fraud.
Florida Insurance Covers Catastrophic Ground Cover Collapse
Florida requires all insurance companies to provide coverage for catastrophic ground cover collapse. Additionally, insurers are supposed to “offer” sinkhole coverage, although they may decline to provide coverage in some instances if testing reveals sinkhole activity in the area. To be covered as catastrophic ground cover collapse, sinkhole damage must meet four criteria:
- There was an abrupt collapse of ground cover
- The depression was clearly visible to the naked eye
- There was structural damage to the building foundation
- There was a condemnation of the structure and an order to vacate
A home or other building may suffer serious sinkhole damage that does not meet the legal definition for catastrophic coverage. However, the insurer may still be liable for coverage under a sinkhole or other provisions. If your insurer refuses to pay for sinkhole damage, a knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale sinkhole lawyer will review policy documents and take action to enforce the property owner’s rights.
Find Out How a Fort Lauderdale Sinkhole Lawyer Can Assist in Your Case
If you suffered injuries on a property with sinkhole damage, the owner or a third party could be held liable for your losses, including medical expenses, future needs, and pain and suffering. If you have property damage caused by a sinkhole, a Fort Lauderdale sinkhole lawyer can determine your options for pursuing relief with insurance companies or those who may have caused the subsidence.
To learn how a sinkhole lawyer could protect your rights and find your best available remedies, contact the experienced team at the Maus Law Firm today for a free consultation.