Like many others across the country, the team at our Panama City personal
injury law firm listened with disbelief as the story hit the news on Friday.
We've all heard of sinkholes and seen images of roads dropping away,
cars clinging to broken pieces of asphalt around a hole that resembles
Hollywood's image of a meteor strike.
However, the story of a hole opening up suddenly underneath a home on an
otherwise common weeknight struck us on a much deeper level. Our hearts
immediately went out to the victim and his family. As members of a legal
team, our minds also turned to the fight the family may face as they face
both the financial and emotional consequences of the tragedy.
Sinkhole Swallows Bedroom, Man Dies Despite Brother's Brave Rescue Efforts
Witnesses told CNN that they heard a deafening noise on Thursday night
in Seffner, a Tampa suburb. Jeremy Bush reports hearing his brother Jeff
scream. He ran to Jeff's room, or where Jeff's room had been,
to find everything in the room gone. Jeremy tried frantically to save
his brother, jumping into the hole and digging at the rubble until the
floor collapses further and a sheriff's deputy pulled Jeremy back
to safety. Jeremy was uninjured, though his grief and distress was clear
to anyone who saw him on news reports the next day. Four others who had
been in the home, including a two-year-old, got out safely.
Rescue officials took over the search for Jeff Bush, but they eventually
had to admit defeat. On Saturday morning, Hillsborough County Administrator
Mike Merrill told reporters that they had been unable to locate the 36-year-old
and had determined that survival was not possible. Officials also reported
that they were unable to recover the body from the sinkhole that gapes
20 feet wide and is more than 50 feet deep. Attention then shifted to
razing the house, a precarious effort since it could collapse at any time.
Workers are doing what they can to salvage belongings, including military
awards, photos, and a family Bible, from a home that had housed the family
for generations. Merrill said that officials needed to get a better view
of the sinkhole in order to determine the next steps.
Sinkholes and Sinkhole Insurance in Florida
In reporting on the tragedy, CNN noted that sinkholes are relatively common
in Florida because the state sits on limestone and other rocks that can
be worn away by acidic groundwater, creating voids that collapse when
the rock is no longer capable of supporting the materials above it. Hillsborough
County is part of an area referred to as "sinkhole alley," and
a state report indicates that two-thirds of Florida's sinkhole-related
insurance claims stem from the region. The Florida Department of Environmental
Protection ("DEP") has a useful Frequently Asked Questions page
that provides information for general interest and for Floridians impacted
Florida law on insurance coverage for sinkholes has changed significantly
in recent years. Previously, insurance coverage for sinkholes was mandatory.
As indicated by the DEP, the law now requires that insurance companies
provide coverage for "catastrophic ground collapse," but this
may not always cover sinkholes. Specific coverage for sinkholes is available,
but not mandatory. The law sets forth complex rules governing suits against
insurance companies for sinkhole or other ground collapse coverage, including
in investigation process. Working with an experienced Florida insurance
coverage lawyer is essential to complete recovery in the event of residential
Our thoughts are with the Bush family as they confront the emotional and
financial losses stemming from last week's tragedy. Our Panama City
insurance coverage law firm team knows that monetary damages cannot bring
back a lost loved one. However, we also know that financial resources
are vital following a tragedy. You've paid for your insurance –
let our experienced team help you get the money you are due.