How to Handle Sinkhole Formation on Your Property

Sinkhole formation is a frequent problem that homeowners in Florida face. Because of their prevalence, it is critical to learn how to handle a sinkhole on your property. Our experienced property damage attorneys offer the following advice.

What Is a Sinkhole?

A sinkhole is a hole in the ground that forms when water dissolves the surrounding surface rock. They develop over several years in specific conditions, typically underneath water-soluble bedrock like limestone and gypsum.

They can range in size from ten to three hundred feet in diameter, with a potential depth of over 165 feet. The largest and deepest sinkhole on the planet is in China and measures a little over 2,000 feet across. 

However, sinkhole formation is hazardous to the health and safety of people across the planet. Sinkholes are unpredictable and may collapse suddenly without warning, taking people, roads, and buildings with them.  

How Common Are Sinkholes?

Florida is, unfortunately, prone to sinkholes for a few reasons. For one, most of Florida sits upon a layer of limestone, a type of rock easily dissolvable by water. The tropical climate also increases the risk of sinkhole formation since rainfall can cause limestone to dissolve.

Though common in our state, scientists experience some challenges when tracking occurrences. There is no national database of sinkhole collapses, and most occur in unobservable rural areas without being reported to proper authorities. 

All that said, we can track common locations and seasons for sinkholes. While sinkholes can occur throughout the state, they are widespread in Sinkhole Alley, which covers most of West Central Florida. They also tend to occur more often in winter and summer.

Causes of Sinkhole Formation

Geologic depressions like sinkholes can naturally occur in a few different ways. Dissolving limestone, cave collapses, and underground water reserves can cause sinkholes to appear throughout the state.

However, human activity can also lead to sinkhole formation. Mining, heavy machines, construction, and farming can typically cause them to appear, leading to an increased risk of economic loss and life-threatening danger.

What to Do if You Suspect Sinkhole Formation

Unfortunately, sinkholes are almost always invisible until they start to collapse. While it is nearly impossible to prevent them from occurring, there are some steps you can take to mitigate sinkhole formation on your property.  

Know the Signs of Sinkhole Formation

First, you should become aware of the warning signs. Cracks in the walls, floors, pavement, and foundation could indicate that a sinkhole is forming under your property. You may also notice sagging fences, muddy well water, slanting trees, or circular cracks in the ground.

Leave the Area

If you suspect a sinkhole is forming on your property, leave the area as soon as possible. They can collapse quickly, causing everything above it to fall into the sinkhole. Stay away, rope off the site, and keep children and pets away.  

Notify Your Insurance

You will need to notify your insurance company as soon as you suspect sinkhole formation on your property. If your policy does not cover sinkholes or other forms of land movement, you may be able to increase your coverage before it collapses. You will also want your insurance adjuster to be aware of the situation so they can take action as soon as possible.

Consult With a Geologist

Once you start to recognize the warning signs, it is critical to consult with a professional geologist that can check for sinkhole formation under your property. If they find one, they can measure it and provide appropriate guidance.

Inform Proper Authorities

Finally, you may need to inform the proper authorities of the sinkhole forming beneath your property. Depending on your location, law enforcement and local organizations might need to evacuate the area and start repairs. You can visit the Florida Geologic Survey’s Sinkhole FAQ page for more guidance.

Speak to the Professionals

Sinkholes can form when increased rainfall dissolves water-soluble bedrock. Because Florida has an unlucky combination of limestone and a tropical climate, sinkhole formation is typical. If you suspect a sinkhole on your property, watch for the warning signs and notify your insurance company. 

Sinkholes are dangerous; unfortunately, many insurance companies do not offer coverage for the damage they cause. However, we can help you determine your options based on your insurance coverage. We will investigate, negotiate, and litigate your case to get you the results you deserve.

Schedule your free case review today with a Hollywood property damage attorney. When insurance companies fail, Klotzman Property Damage Law succeeds.

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