Although Arizona's most famous sinkhole, The Devil's Kitchen, has been around for generations and has attracted geological enthusiasts the world over, most sinkholes in the state are far less interesting and cause much more damage. Sinkholes can appear suddenly and without warning. Does your homeowners insurance policy cover these very common threats?
Before you search for sinkhole insurance quotes, however, there are several factors to keep in mind.
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A History of Sinkholes in Arizona
According to the United States Geological Survey and media reports:
- On Feb. 20, 2013, a giant sinkhole swallowed two cars in Page, AZ, and caused 120 feet of highway to sink nearly four feet.
- The most active sinkholes in Arizona are in Sedona, where The Devil's Kitchen, a system of seven large sinkholes, can be found.
- Feb 28, 2011 - A giant sinkhole forced the closure of northbound 67th Avenue at Camelback Road in Glendale, AZ.
- According to ABC News, insurance claims related to sinkholes more than doubled between 2006 and 2009.
How Do Sinkholes Form?
Sinkholes are catastrophic phenomena that occur all over the world. They are natural depressions or holes that form in the earth’s crust. Sinkholes can result from both natural and man-made causes.
- Natural causes: Sinkholes can be caused by the after-effects of earthquakes, erosions in the earth's surface, or the presence of excess groundwater. Although excessive rains and flooding can sometimes cause these disasters, there is evidence that extreme droughts can have the same effect. Natural sinkholes usually show early signs of erosion.
- Man-made causes: Sinkholes can sometimes be precipitated by man-made forces that weaken underlying layers in the earth’s crust. Some common causes include excessive drilling, mining, construction and even lots of heavy traffic. Some suspect that hydraulic fracture mining ("fracking") may have this effect as well. Fracking is becoming more and more common in Arizona, and so are sinkholes.
What is Sinkhole Insurance?
Most traditional Arizona homeowners insurance policies do not cover damages resulting from sinkholes. However, many homeowners and business insurance policies offer special endorsements for sinkhole coverage. If your home or business is destroyed by a sinkhole, you will receive no compensation for your losses unless you have a sinkhole endorsement. This is a financial burden that most households cannot manage.
Your vehicle needs protection as well, especially considering many of Arizona's most recent sinkholes have taken place on streets and highways. You can get coverage for your vehicle simply by including comprehensive coverage with your car or truck insurance policy. This coverage will provide you with compensation for loss or damage caused by sinkholes, as well as other common occurrences such as fire, severe weather and theft.
What Does Sinkhole Insurance Cover?
Even a small sinkhole can cause major shifting beneath the surface, causing severe cracks to the foundation and walls of your home or business. Large sinkholes can swallow the entire structure. Sinkhole insurance will provide compensation for damages to your business or home, outlying property and personal belongings kept inside the building if they are damaged as the result of a sinkhole on your property.
Some sinkhole insurance policies will also cover necessary preventive measures, such as structural bracing, to keep a future sinkhole from causing severe damage to your property.
Your sinkhole insurance policy may not provide coverage for damages from mine subsidence, so be sure to review your policy carefully to see if you need additional insurance if your Arizona property is on top of an old coal mine.
How Can I Find Sinkholes on My Land?
Some sinkholes are easy to spot by the gaping hole in the ground. But other times, sinkholes may be difficult to detect -- for example, if they're still covered with a thin overburden that has yet to collapse into the void below. Other signs of sinkhole activity include:
- Property damage, especially around the foundation, may be a subtle sign that something is wrong.
- If vegetation is dying unexpectedly, a sinkhole may have disrupted underlying streams that usually feed the plants.
- Other signs to look for include polluted or muddied well water, formation of new ponds and trees, or sign posts that appear to be slumping over.
What Will My Sinkhole Insurance Quote Look Like?
In Florida, where residents are at the highest risk of sinkhole damage, the insurance endorsement quote can be as much at $4,000 per year. However, considering the average insurance claim in Florida for sinkhole damage exceeds $80,000, that premium is well spent.
In Arizona, however, sinkholes are not as common as they are in limestone-rich states like Florida. Most Arizona residents can find a sinkhole insurance endorsement quote for far less.
Where Can I Find Sinkhole Insurance?
The last thing you want to discover on your property is a sinkhole. If you don't already have sinkhole insurance, once you find the tell-tale signs of one, most Arizona insurance providers will deny you coverage.
Knowledgeable, independent insurance agents on the Trusted Choice network are always available to answer your questions, suggest sinkhole coverage options, and even assist you in filing a claim. These agents have years of experience working with Arizona insurance companies, enabling them to find you a variety of quotes with the best coverage options at the most affordable rates. Contact a Trusted Choice member agent near you to find out how you can have the added protection of a sinkhole insurance endorsement that fits your needs and budget.