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Sinkholes: one of Florida's most common dangers

Last November, a sinkhole opened up in a neighborhood in Dunedin, forcing an evacuation and causing irreparable damage to two homes.
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    February 08, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- California has earthquakes, while the Midwest has tornadoes. The East Coast and parts of the Southwest are routinely hammered by hurricanes. While certainly not limited to Florida, a common and terrifying danger known to our state is sinkholes. Hillsborough is one of the counties that make up what is known as "sinkhole alley," which comprises about two thirds of the sinkhole activity throughout the state, and also includes Hernando and Pasco counties, says Fox News.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection describes sinkholes as voids beneath the earth that are most commonly caused by the natural erosion of limestone and dolomite - the most common rocks to be found underneath Florida earth. If sinkholes are most often caused by natural factors, you may be wondering how it applies from a personal injury standpoint. If an investigation unearths evidence that the sinkhole was the result of something people did, then families who suffered injuries or the death of a loved one may be eligible for compensation.

For example, some sinkholes can be formed by too much groundwater being pumped into the area; drilling wells; excavation; leaking or burst waterlines; excessive vibration caused by construction machinery; blasting; or pounding in foundation support structures.

When The Earth Swallows Homes Whole

Last November, a sinkhole opened up in a neighborhood in Dunedin, forcing an evacuation and causing irreparable damage to two homes, which will need to be destroyed. One of the victims reported that the families were sleeping at the time the sinkhole began to open, but the noise alerted everyone in time to escape safely. With the sinkhole now about 70 feet wide and over 50 feet deep, the outcome could have easily been different.

Such was the case in a tragic incident last February that made national news; nearly everyone in country knows about the man who was killed when a sinkhole near Tampa suddenly swallowed his entire bedroom while he was asleep. His body was never recovered.

The thought of a sinkhole suddenly opening up beneath your feet is terrifying. However, Bay News 9 reports that there are some signs that may warn when a sinkhole is about to form:
- Slanting or slumping trees, signs or fence posts.
- Doors and windows not closing properly.
- Foundations, posts and trees showing fresh exposure.
- Puddles or ponds of rainwater forming where they didn't form before.
- Vegetation wilting from water draining into forming sinkholes.
- Cracks in pavement, walls or floors.

If you suspect a sinkhole is forming in your area, it's important to mark the spot and keep children and pets away. Stay outside the building if signs have occurred indoors, and contact the property insurance adjuster, county emergency services and law enforcement immediately.

If the sinkhole occurs on private property, it is the responsibility of the property owners' association or the landowner to repair. If someone is injured on private property as the result of the owner failing to secure and repair sinkhole damage, that person may be held liable for compensation.

Contacting An Attorney

Sinkholes cause a large amount of property damage every year in Florida, and have been responsible for some injuries and even deaths. If the development of a sinkhole has caused injuries for you or a family member, it's important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney right away to discuss your rights.

Article provided by Stamatakis + Thalji + Bonanno
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