Timeline For A Denied Claim
At this stage, you’ve already filed a claim for sinkhole damage to your home, your insurance company has conducted an investigation, and they’ve denied your claim.
If your claim is denied for any reason, you have few options left. You should immediately speak with a lawyer experienced in handling sinkhole claims because a lawsuit may now be your best option. There is a limited amount of time, typically within four years, to file a lawsuit after you receive a denial from your insurance company.
Attorney John Byrne with the Byrne Law Group has worked with almost FOUR HUNDRED homeowners in helping to resolve their sinkhole damage issues - call him for a FREE consultation to learn about your options at 813-413-6565. The Byrne Law Group can arrange for an independent expert geologist or geotechnical engineer to review the findings prepared by the testing company the insurance company hired.
Remember - the insurance company is the one who chooses the geologist or geotechnical firm who does the testing - do you really think that testing company is independent? They’re PAID by the insurance company and they probably aren’t too likely bite the hand that feeds them! Often a review by an independent expert, not paid by the insurance company, can reveal startling information the insurance company’s expert "overlooked."
If an independent geologist or geotechnical engineer, after reviewing your report or conducting their own testing, cannot rule out the possibility that sinkhole activity impacting your home, the Byrne Law Group will move to quickly file a lawsuit against your insurance company.
Stage 1: Arrange for independent expert geological investigation. Sometimes additional testing will be required, other times it will not. An independent expert is retained within hours of you hiring the Byrne Law Group as your attorneys.
Stage 2: The independent expert investigates your claim, reviews the insurance company’s data, and forms an opinion. If the expert’s opinion is that sinkhole activity is impacting your property, the expert will prepare a report and transmit it to the Byrne Law Group. This typically will occur within three to twelve weeks after hiring the expert.
Stage 3: Once an independent expert geologist or geotechnical engineer issues an opinion stating he or she believes part of the home’s damage may be caused by sinkhole activity, the Byrne Law Group swings into action. Within hours of receiving the expert’s opinion, the Byrne Law Group files a breach of contract lawsuit in Circuit Court, and immediately begins filing discovery requests. The lawsuit and discovery requests are then "served" on the insurance company.
Stage 4: The insurance company has twenty days to answer the lawsuit once they have been served with it. Their answers are fairly similar - they deny any wrong doing, they are sweet and wonderful, and the homeowner is wrong. At this stage the insurance company will have assigned the lawsuit to a lawyer, and the insurance lawyer will begin sending discovery requests to the Byrne Law Group for the homeowner to answer. This typically happens about a month after the lawsuit is filed.
Stage 5: Depositions. A deposition is a question and answer session done under Oath, in front of a court reporter who transcribes every word that is said. It is likely that the insurance company will want to depose the homeowner and other people who live in the house. Learn more about depositions HERE [INSERT LINK TO DEPOSITIONS]. The Byrne Law Group will also move quickly to depose key people working for the insurance company. Depositions typically occur between two to six months, or more, after filing the lawsuit.
Stage 6: Neutral Evaluation. Florida law allows something called Neutral Evaluation. Neutral Evaluation is a procedural process, by which an unbiased expert geologist or geotechnical engineer reviews the data conducted by the experts, and gives his or her opinion about the cause of damage to the home. The Neutral Evaluator’s opinion is not binding, and often times meaningless - many insurance companies use Neutral Evaluation as a means to further stall and delay sinkhole lawsuits. Most Neutral Evaluators do almost all of their work for insurance companies, leading some to question their real "neutrality." Neutral Evaluation may or may not occur in a sinkhole lawsuit, but if it does, it will often occur within six months after filing the lawsuit.
Stage 6: Trial Date and Mediation. About six months after filing the lawsuit, if the Judge has not already done so, the Byrne Law Group will ask the Judge to set aside a block of time on his or her calendar for a jury trial. If the Judge is agreeable, your sinkhole lawsuit will be scheduled for trial, usually three to six months later.
At the same time, most Judges will order the parties to attend mediation. Learn more about Mediation HERE [INSERT LINK TO MEDIATION]. The vast majority of sinkhole lawsuit resolve themselves and settle at or around mediation. Mediation will typically occur about six to nine months after filing the lawsuit.
Stage 7: Trial. If your lawsuit does not settle, we gear up and prepare for trial! Trial typically will occur at least a year after the lawsuit is filed, and may not happen for a number of years. Jury trials are very rare, with probably less than .5% of sinkhole lawsuits reaching trial.