With more sinkholes emerging in Texas, was your property affected or at-risk of further sinkhole damage? Most sinkholes collapse without warning and take buildings and roads above down with them. Are you and your family in danger, and are sinkholes covered by your homeowners insurance? The Haun Mena Houston insurance claim law firm explains.
Why Is Sinkhole Damage Common in Texas?
Texas has the dubious distinction of being one of the seven worst states in the U.S. for having damage from sinkholes. These hazards occur when underground spaces can’t support the weight of land surfaces.
- Usually form gradually but can collapse suddenly and may worsen over time
- Can be small and shallow or wide and deep, with various shapes
- Result from water weakening or hollowing soil or rock layers below ground level
- Are more likely when the substrate is carbonate rock, limestone, shale, other soft rock, or salt beds
- May cause catastrophic damage
The soil in Texas is prime for sinkholes to occur naturally. Studies also indicate that the multitude of injection and oil wells in the Lone Star State may contribute to the likelihood of sinkholes forming.
Are Sinkholes Covered by Insurance?
Most property owners purchase insurance policies to protect their assets against damage. However, there are exceptions to covered occurrences. Standard homeowners insurance typically doesn’t cover sinkhole damage.
Many insurance companies allow property owners to purchase sinkhole coverage as endorsements or riders to their primary homeowners’ policy or as a separate policy. Policies differ, but you may obtain coverage for your:
- Outbuildings and other structures
- Personal property
- Personal liability
- Living expenses
Possible payouts can cover the costs of repairing or replacing damaged structures or belongings, stabilizing the land, injuries due to the sinkhole, and alternate living arrangements while repairs are in progress. You may receive compensation up to your policy limit, depending on how much the repairs and replacements cost.
What Should You Do if You Have Sinkhole Damage?
If a sinkhole collapses on your property and causes damage, there are several things you should do to protect your safety and your insurance claim.
Protect your family
Sinkholes can collapse and expand unexpectedly. Cordon off the area around the sinkhole to prevent injuries. If the sinkhole significantly damages your home or other structures, don’t enter them.
Try to prevent the damage from worsening
Your insurance policy covers initial damage, but you’ll likely have to pay for preventable damage that occurs afterward. For instance, say that a sinkhole causes part of your roof to collapse. You should cover the roof to prevent rain from damaging the inside of your home.
Take photos and videos of the damage, the sinkhole, and other relevant details. Keep records of calls or emails with contractors and your insurance company. Also, keep receipts of items you buy to prevent further damage and other expenses that may be reimbursable.
Notify your insurance company
Contact your insurance carrier soon after the sinkhole damage occurs, even if you’re not ready to file an official claim. Doing so advises the company about your damage and reminds you of filing deadlines.
Do Insurance Companies Pay Fairly for Damages Caused by Sinkholes in Texas?
When you buy an insurance policy, you and your insurer enter into a binding agreement. In exchange for your premium payments, the company agrees to pay eligible claims against your policy. Although these companies expect you to make timely payments to them, they often balk when the time comes for them to make good on their promise of paying you.
If you file a damage claim, your insurance company may offer minimal compensation or deny your claim altogether. Your carrier may claim that:
- You didn’t try to prevent the initial or further damage.
- The sinkhole didn’t cause your damage.
- The damage isn’t as severe as you say it is.
- Your policy doesn’t have sinkhole damage coverage or wasn’t in effect when the damage occurred.
- You didn’t file your claim before the deadline.
Sinkholes in Texas can cause damage that requires extensive and costly repairs. You may need to prove your claim’s validity, and even then, your carrier may try to pay less than they should. Hiring an attorney with experience handling sinkhole claims can help.
What Can You Do if Your Insurer Denies Your Claim?
You don’t have to accept an insurance company’s denial of a claim or initial settlement offer. However, most people don’t have the resources to argue against a denial or negotiating skills to obtain maximum compensation. Contact Haun Mena for assistance.
We have the resources, knowledge, and skills to stand up to reluctant insurance companies. We will investigate your damage and find out why the insurance company denied your claim.
If you had appropriate insurance coverage before your damage occurred, we will fight for the compensation you deserve. We can hire geologists and engineers to provide evidence supporting your claim. We will negotiate a favorable settlement offer or take your case to trial if the insurer doesn’t cooperate.
Why Choose Haun Mena To Handle Your Sinkhole Damage Claim?
One of our founders used to work for a Texas insurance company, so we know how they operate and have used that knowledge to win compensation for our clients. If your property has sinkhole damage in Texas, contact us at Haun Mena to request your free consultation today. You can reach us 24/7 by calling (713) 874-9216, starting a live chat, or completing our contact form.