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Structural Damage in Sinkhole Cases

The Florida legislature passed new laws regarding sinkhole insurance claims in the State's last legislative session. One change regarding sinkhole claims is that in order to recover from your insurance company for a sinkhole claim, the sinkhole must have caused structural damage to the property.

The definition of structural damage varied among geologists, general contractors, and structural engineers so the legislature decided to define structural damage in Florida Statute 627.706(2)(k) for a more uniform definition. Most of the definitions involve the Florida Building Code and whether the damage would be outside the Code's acceptable standards for walls, floors, and support and safety for buildings. This change was most likely made to make the rules on recovering for sinkhole damage to your property more restrictive than before, making it harder to recover for your sinkhole claim. You now must not only prove that there is a sinkhole on your property, but that the damage is severe enough to meet the definition of "structural damage."

It is important to speak with a Florida sinkhole attorney regarding this new definition of structural damage and how it applies to your claim and your case. The definition has been provided below.

"Structural damage" means a covered building, regardless of the date of its construction, has experienced the following:

1. Interior floor displacement or deflection in excess of acceptable variances as defined in ACI 117-90 or the Florida Building Code, which results in settlement-related damage to the interior such that the interior building structure or members become unfit for service or represents a safety hazard as defined within the Florida Building Code;

2. Foundation displacement or deflection in excess of acceptable variances as defined in ACI 318-95 or the Florida Building Code, which results in settlement-related damage to the primary structural members or primary structural systems that prevents those members or systems from supporting the loads and forces they were designed to support to the extent that stresses in those primary structural members or primary structural systems exceeds one and one-third the nominal strength allowed under the Florida Building Code for new buildings of similar structure, purpose, or location;

3. Damage that results in listing, leaning, or buckling of the exterior load-bearing walls or other vertical primary structural members to such an extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity does not fall inside the middle one-third of the base as defined within the Florida Building Code;

4. Damage that results in the building, or any portion of the building containing primary structural members or primary structural systems, being significantly likely to imminently collapse because of the movement or instability of the ground within the influence zone of the supporting ground within the sheer plane necessary for the purpose of supporting such building as defined within the Florida Building Code; or

5. Damage occurring on or after October 15, 2005, that qualifies as "substantial structural damage" as defined in the Florida Building Code.

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