Sinkhole insurance legislation headed to governor's desk

In a region riddled with hidden sinkholes, this week state lawmakers revisited the way homeowners can protect their homes from that type of damage.

Earlier this week, senators passed SB 0880/HB 1005, which revises and clarifies certain elements of the Tennessee law regarding sinkhole insurance.

Under current law, "Every insurer offering homeowners property insurance in [Tennessee] shall make coverage available for insurable sinkhole losses on any dwelling."

One of the bill's sponsors, Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), says that will not change under his new proposal.

"I want to make that clear, it keeps all statutory requirements of insurance companies that are required to offer sinkhole coverage either as a covered peril or as an endorsement. That hasn't changed, that's exactly as its always been," he said.

The senator said the goal of his bill is to prevent fraudulent sinkhole insurance claims, which he said challenged the only other state that offers sinkhole coverage: Florida.

"It uses objective standards to verify the damage is caused by a sinkhole. Objective standards," Tracy explained. "What was happening was, there was a lot of fraudulent claims out there - people trying to help themselves."

He says the bill was designed to protect the consumer and the insurance provider by using third party standards to define sinkholes and the damages they cause.

However, it didn't pass without plenty of criticism, including some from Middle-Tennessee attorney Sonya Wright.

"I said, 'Do you have any example of any homeowner in the state of Tennessee that has brought any fraudulent claim for a sinkhole?'"

Wright represents homeowners who have suffered from natural disasters like sinkholes. She said the lawmakers could not give her any examples of fraudulent claims in Tennessee.

"It's not like I have a hundred cases here that I'm filing. It's like -- come on, where is the fraud? I feel like they're legislating something that doesn't need to be legislated."

READ: Amended version of the bill

Wright said she is concerned some homeowners will struggle to find affordable homeowners insurance under the proposed legislation.

She said all homeowners should review their coverage and find out what protections they have in place against sinkholes.

"If [people] they're in an area that's prone to sinkholes, and the Knoxville area is, then they should probably purchase coverage," she said. "And that's really all they can do at this point to protect themselves."


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment