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Florida’s Sinkholes and Premises Liability

Sinkholes have been a problem for developed areas in Florida for decades. What is a sinkhole? A sinkhole is a natural depression or hole in the ground caused by the collapse of ground surface layers. A sinkhole can be caused by chemical dissolution or collapse caused by man-made activities, including the collapse of a mine. Sinkholes are formed by the gradual removal of surface layers and may open up to a cave-like space underground. Many urban sinkholes are caused by natural water drainage and weather patterns.

After an injury or death caused by failed maintenance or a dangerous property defect, victims or their families can bring a claim against negligent individuals or entities. Sinkholes have become a problem throughout the state of Florida resulting in multiple injuries and death. Our Fort Lauderdale premises liability attorneys are experienced in the investigation and pursuit of claims involving property owner negligence. In the event of a sinkhole injury or accident, can you hold the property owner liable? Who is responsible in the event of a catastrophic or deadly sinkhole?

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The cause of a sinkhole may be difficult to determine, but in Florida they can cause significant property and personal damage. If you were injured by a sinkhole while on private property, you may be able to take legal action against the homeowner, depending on the circumstances. Under premises liability theory, homeowners have a duty to ensure that proper is safe for those who enter. If a homeowner had warning signs that the foundation was shaky or that there was a sinkhole, the homeowner may be responsible for any injuries or death.

Further complicating matters, many homeowners insurance policies exclude sinkholes as a cause for recovery.

There have also been instances where property sellers knowingly sell a damaged home without informing buyers that the property is actually on a sinkhole. The warning signs can be difficult to spot, but if a seller fails to notify the buyer of a sinkhole, he or she could be liable for both personal and property damage. In Florida, sinkhole disclosure statements are extremely relevant and can protect both buyers and sellers.

You may also be able to pursue legal action from your neighbors if they performed underground work that caused damage to underlying foundation resulting in a sinkhole. Again, pursuing this legal remedy requires demonstrating general negligence, or that the neighbor could have reasonably foreseen damage to surrounding properties.

Recently, at least two Florida homes and a swimming pool have been lost to a Florida sinkhole. Fortunately, in this case, not one was injured, but there have been reports of Florida residents losing their lives to hazardous sinkholes. Deaths caused by sinkholes are not common, but many Florida residents have suffered property damage and loss from sinkholes. According to a recent report, property insurance companies have found that claims increased from 2,360 in 2006 to 6,694 In 2010. These claims for property damage are approximately $1.4 billion.

Property owner should lookout for warning signs that a sinkhole may be forming including cracks in buildings or pools, depressions in land, and other indications of an unstable foundation. Sinkholes can be caused by water dissolution, cavities left by dissolved limestone or if limestone is worn away by rainwater. If you or someone you love was injured by a sinkhole, an experienced attorney can investigate your case and determine whether any individual or entity should be held accountable.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Freeman Injury Law for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-561-7777.

More Blog Entries:

Temporary Workers at High Risk of Injury in Fort Laudredale, West Palm Beach, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, May 13, 2013

U.S. Airways, Inc. v. McCutchen, Equitable Relief, and Third-Party Work Accidents, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, April 22, 2013

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