Understanding the Difference between a Sinkhole and Catastrophic Ground Collapse

Sinkhole, Catastrophic Ground Collapse As a homeowner, there’s plenty on your plate to worry about when it comes to natural disasters and environmental risks. However, chances are threats from below the surface aren’t too high up on your list currently. Unfortunately, this outlook could soon start shifting. As Christopher Balogh of The Atlantic points out, with sinkhole activity on the rise, now is the time to ensure you have the proper coverage should the worst happen. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the differences between sinkholes and catastrophic ground collapse as well as how insurers differentiate between the two when responding to a property damage claim.

The Nature of a Sinkhole

With states like Florida sitting upon a bedrock composed primarily of limestone, an act as simple as an afternoon shower can slowly dissolve this underlying rock, according to Alan Cairns of Huffington Post Miami. Once this dissolution occurs, it’s only a matter of time before the weakest areas start to cave in – creating gaps beneath the ground. Naturally, with heavy asphalt roads and buildings sitting atop these gaps, the simple math regarding weight and tension ensures that the porous surface layer can only take so much strain before giving way and pulling the upper tiers down to the bottom of the breach.

Differentiating Catastrophic Ground Collapse

While it might seem like there can’t be much of a difference between this definition of sinkhole activity and what insurers label as “catastrophic ground collapse,” the Florida Department of Financial Services reports that the relationship connecting these two occurrences hinges upon four specific criteria.

To qualify as catastrophic ground collapse, the geological event in question must constitute an abrupt collapse of the ground cover or contain a clearly visible depression to the naked eye. Additionally, if a building is in the collapsed area, insurers require that this building have structural damage to the foundation in order to honor coverage. Finally, a government agency with the proper legal authority must condemn the structure and deem it unsuitable for habitation. If your damages don’t fall in line with these four criteria, don’t expect your catastrophic ground collapse coverage to kick into effect.

Protecting Your Interests

As you can see, the differences between a sinkhole and catastrophic ground collapse boil down to particular terminology and legal subtleties. Because of this, insurance providers offer separate plans that protect property owners against sinkhole activity from traditional policies. However, since this coverage is recommended but not mandatory, it’s still up to you to make sure your home or place of business has the proper plan to defend against these events.

To do this, the Florida Department of Financial Services goes on to suggest making sure you have sinkhole coverage built into your policy, or as a rider attached to your plan. Additionally, hiring an inspector to look for signs of potential sinkhole activity before purchasing a property as well as implementing periodic sinkhole tests after the purchase can help eradicate the issue before it occurs. By taking these steps, you can put your newfound knowledge to good use and ensure that your coverage is right where it needs to be should catastrophic ground collapse or a sinkhole cause damage to your property.

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