A sinkhole could cause devastating, permanent damage to your house and the rest of your property around your house. If you have insurance coverage for these natural disasters, you may be entitled to compensation.
However, obtaining insurance compensation for damage done by a sinkhole can be a time-consuming and difficult process. The Cincinnati sinkhole lawyers at O’Connor, Acciani & Levy understand how difficult it can be to obtain fair compensation from an insurance company. We can manage every aspect of the insurance claims process on your behalf, pursuing compensation for all the damages you suffered.
Your consultation with our experienced insurance attorneys is 100 percent free and you will not be charged legal fees unless you receive compensation. There is no risk to you to contact us today to find out if we can help you.
Why Do I Need A Sinkhole Attorney?
When you notify your insurance company about a sinkhole, the representative you speak to will collect some basic information and begin an investigation. This usually involves sending an engineer or geologist to the scene to conduct specialized testing, such as ground penetrating radar and electrical resistivity studies. This could take several days or even several weeks.
The insurance company will also send out a home inspector or adjuster to survey the damage to your home and property. This inspection will be used to determine what damages are covered by your insurance and the value of those damages. The insurance company may also use licensed contractors to determine repair estimates for your property.
Unfortunately, the inspectors, engineers and others sent to investigate the sinkhole are working on behalf of the insurance company. Insurers often work with experts who tend to favor insurance companies and undervalue claims or reach conclusions about sinkholes that are unfavorable to policyholders.
If you hire a skilled legal team, they can hire experts to do their own investigation of the sinkhole and the property damage you suffered. This will help your legal team get an accurate idea of what happened and the true value of your claim. This helps us to know when an insurance company is offering a lowball settlement or unfairly denying a claim.
Another advantage to having an attorney is that he or she can deal with the insurance company on your behalf. We have many years of combined experience negotiating with insurers and know what it takes to be successful.
A sinkhole lawyer in Cincinnati also knows how to advocate for your best interests. Insurance companies would prefer to deal with policyholders because they know you are unsure about how to obtain fair compensation. Policyholders are more likely to take the first offer they receive instead of holding out for the full value of their damages.
Policyholders are also more likely to say something that hurts their claim. For example, they might minimize the damages to their home or say something that makes the insurance company think the policyholder knew about the sinkhole for weeks or months before reporting it.
If a dispute arises, our bad faith insurance attorneys are prepared to go back and forth with the insurance company until we obtain a favorable result. This could include disputes over the value of your claim, denial of your claim, processing of your claim or other disputes.
What Is A Sinkhole?
A sinkhole is a hole in the ground that is created when the rock below the surface is dissolved by water, causing the surface to collapse into the hole. Over time, the underground space becomes so large that there isn’t enough support for the land above it, resulting in a sudden collapse.
Some sinkholes are only a few inches or feet deep, but others can cover multiple acres of land. For example, in Dec. 2012, an area the size of four football fields fell into a sinkhole in Dover, Ohio. The sinkhole was 15 feet wide and 20 feet deep.
Many sinkholes are naturally occurring, resulting from carbonate rock being dissolved by groundwater. If groundwater cannot drain to the surface, it can be slowly dissolve carbonate rock, like limestone, gypsum, salt beds and domes.
However, there are also sinkholes caused by mining or other work done underground. For example, if a mineshaft collapses, it might not be able to support the ground above it, resulting in the surface collapsing into the ground.
If a sinkhole caused damage to your home, contact a Cincinnati sinkhole attorney today for a free legal consultation. We may be able to help you pursue insurance compensation.
Types Of Sinkholes
There are three main types of sinkholes that occur:
- Cover-collapse sinkholes – Sometimes there is a layer of clay that covers a cavity in limestone beneath the surface of the ground. However, sometimes these clay bridges collapse, causing the ground above to fall into the hole.
- Limestone solution sinkholes – These often develop slowly because it takes a while for limestone to dissolve. These types of sinkholes occur if there is exposed limestone at the surface or a thin layer of soil above the limestone. These often are saucer or bowl-shaped depressions in the ground.
- Cover-subsidence sinkholes – These are small sinkholes that are usually only a few feet wide and deep. The reason they are so small is that sand fills the void that is created when limestone dissolves. The layer of sand above the limestone is usually 50 to 100 feet thick.
The sinkhole attorneys in Cincinnati at our firm are prepared to pursue compensation for damage caused by these types of sinkholes.
Warning Signs Of A Sinkhole
Sinkholes can develop over many years without causing any warning signs on the surface. There is often little warning that the surface is about to collapse into the hole that has been created underground.
However, sometimes there are warning signs that a sinkhole could be forming underground, such as:
- Dying or wilting vegetation, which could be sign of groundwater draining into a sinkhole
- Splintering of the ground
- Cracks in the foundation of your house
- Cracks in the interior or exterior walls, driveways, porches, decks, ceilings and floors
- Tree roots being exposed when they were not exposed before
- Doors and windows not closing the way they used to
- Excessive standing water in your yard, when this did not used to happen
- Depressions or dips in the yard
- Other sinkholes in your neighborhood
- Tilted tree or fence posts
- Slugs or centipedes in your home
- Well water contaminated with debris
- Dead patches of grass, caused by groundwater not coming to the surface
- Cracks in the stairs
- Odd noises that could be your house buckling and beginning to descend into the sinkhole
If you notice any of these signs, report them to your sinkhole insurance company right away. If you wait until things get worse, the insurance company could try to deny your claim or offer you much less compensation than you deserve. The insurance company may argue that you are responsible for what happened to your property because you did not report it right away.
Insurance companies will always do whatever they can to avoid paying policyholders all the compensation they deserve. It is best not to give them a reason to be suspicious about your claim because it can make the process even more contentious.
What To Do If A Sinkhole Forms?
If part of your property begins to fall into a sinkhole, there are several steps you should take to help ensure your family’s safety and help to preserve your insurance claim:
- Get out of your house immediately – If part of your home begins to collapse into a sinkhole, get everyone out of the house immediately. The most important thing in this situation is health and safety for you and your family. Once the situation has stabilized, you may be able to return and collect valuables. You may also want to leave if another sinkhole forms on another part of your property.
- Block off the area around the sinkhole – If a large sinkhole forms, this may be taken care of by local authorities. However, you need to make sure the area is blocked off with a fence or rope. If someone gets hurt by falling into the sinkhole, you could potentially be held liable.
- Contact your insurance company immediately – Ohio does not require standard homeowner’s insurance policies to cover sinkholes. This is why you need separate sinkhole insurance to have a chance of recovering insurance compensation. If you have sinkhole insurance, it is best to report a claim as soon as possible. If you wait, the insurance company may say your claim is invalid simply because you waited to report what happened. The faster you report what happened, the faster the insurance company can begin investigating and possibly paying you compensation for damages covered by your insurance policy.
- Collect evidence at the scene – After exiting the house and making sure you and your family are safe, try to collect evidence at the scene. Take pictures of the sinkhole and any damage it has caused to your property. Continue taking pictures as the investigation continues so you can document any further damage to your property.
- Contact an attorney – A Cincinnati sinkhole attorney can deal with the insurance company on your behalf, advocating for your best interests. This is very important because the insurance company will be looking to undercut your claim in any way possible. Insurers are not concerned with your best interests, they are focused on making money. That means they do not want to pay fair compensation to policyholders.
Contact Our Cincinnati Sinkhole Attorneys Right Now
Has your home been damaged or destroyed by a sinkhole?
The Cincinnati sinkhole lawyers at our firm may be able to pursue insurance compensation for your damages. We know how contentious this process can be, as we have years of experience negotiating fair compensation with insurance companies.
We are committed to conducting a detailed investigation to determine the full value of the damages you suffered. We want to recover all the compensation you deserve, up to the limits of your policy.
Your consultation with our attorneys is free and you will not be assessed legal fees unless you receive compensation.