Many insurance carriers attempt to force their insureds into subsurface repair contracts based on the carrier’s recommendations. In fact, carriers will refuse to provide coverage for a valid sinkhole claim unless the property owner repairs the property exactly the way the carrier recommends. Interestingly, the carrier will not agree to be liable if the recommended repair fails. This lack of security leaves many of my clients insecure. Many insureds obtain additional professional engineers’ opinions as to the appropriate repair to stabilize the affected property and if the opinions differ from the carriers’, litigation often follows.
A few days ago, I came across a news story highlighting all of my clients’ worst nightmares. Donna King, a 78 year old widow, procured insurance with Citizens Insurance Property Corporation. She paid an additional premium to include Sinkhole Loss coverage to protect her home. After the policy took affect, Mrs. King noticed damages to her home and reported the suspected sinkhole damage to Citizens. Citizens tested the residence for sinkhole activity and confirmed a sinkhole loss. Citizens then demanded Mrs. King enter into a subsurface repair contract based on Citizens’ retained engineer’s recommendations. Mrs. King acted accordingly, entered into a subsurface repair contract, and the residence was “repaired.” Approximately one year later, the damage returned with a vengeance, causing severe damages and forcing Mrs. King to relive the nightmare. Unfortunately, this time, Citizens refused to cover for Mrs. King’s claim. As we stand today, Mrs. King’s home remains unrepaired as a constant reminder that Citizens has failed her miserably.
Please take a moment to listen to Mrs. King’s story reported by Tampa Bay’s 10 news. It is an interesting game that Citizens is playing; Citizens demands its insureds repair their properties following a specific protocol and then jumps off the liability train when that repair fails.
This is not an isolated incident. I am currently handling similar claims against Citizens. And, if you think the private carriers are sitting on the bench, you are mistaken. Private carriers often deny and delay similar claims.