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FLORIDA SINKHOLE LAWS
This is the current Sinkhole that was enacted into law on May 17, 2011 1Note.—Section 21, ch. 2011-39, provides that: “The Legislature finds and declares:
“(1) There is a compelling state interest in maintaining a viable and orderly private-sector market for property insurance in this state. The lack of a viable and orderly property market reduces the availability of property insurance coverage to state residents, increases the cost of property insurance, and increases the state’s reliance on a residual property insurance market and its potential for imposing assessments on policyholders throughout the state.
“(2) In 2005, the Legislature revised ss. 627.706–627.7074, Florida Statutes, to adopt certain geological or technical terms; to increase reliance on objective, scientific testing requirements; and generally to reduce the number of sinkhole claims and related disputes arising under prior law. The Legislature determined that since the enactment of these statutory revisions, both private-sector insurers and Citizens Property Insurance Corporation have, nevertheless, continued to experience high claims frequency and severity for sinkhole insurance claims. In addition, many properties remain unrepaired even after loss payments, which reduces the local property tax base and adversely affects the real estate market. Therefore, the Legislature finds that losses associated with sinkhole claims adversely affect the public health, safety, and welfare of this state and its citizens. “(3) Pursuant to sections 22 through 27 of this act, technical or scientific definitions adopted in the 2005 legislation are clarified to implement and advance the Legislature’s intended reduction of sinkhole claims and disputes. Certain other revisions to ss. 627.706–627.7074, Florida Statutes, are enacted to advance legislative intent to rely on scientific or technical determinations relating to sinkholes and sinkhole claims, reduce the number and cost of disputes relating to sinkhole claims, and ensure that repairs are made commensurate with the scientific and technical determinations and insurance claims payments.”
1627.706 Sinkhole insurance; catastrophic ground cover collapse; definitions.—
(1)(a) Every insurer authorized to transact property insurance in this state must provide coverage for a catastrophic ground cover collapse. (b) The insurer shall make available, for an appropriate additional premium, coverage for sinkhole losses on any structure, including the contents of personal property contained therein, to the extent provided in the form to which the coverage attaches. The insurer may require an inspection of the property before issuance of sinkhole loss coverage. A policy for residential property insurance may include a deductible amount applicable to sinkhole losses equal to 1 percent, 2 percent, 5 percent, or 10 percent of the policy dwelling limits, with appropriate premium discounts offered with each deductible amount. (c) The insurer may restrict catastrophic ground cover collapse and sinkhole loss coverage to the principal building, as defined in the applicable policy. (2) As used in ss. 627.706-627.7074, and as used in connection with any policy providing coverage for a catastrophic ground cover collapse or for sinkhole losses, the term: (a) “Catastrophic ground cover collapse” means geological activity that results in all the following: 1. The abrupt collapse of the ground cover; 2. A depression in the ground cover clearly visible to the naked eye; 3. Structural damage to the covered building, including the foundation; and 4. The insured structure being condemned and ordered to be vacated by the governmental agency authorized by law to issue such an order for that structure. Contents coverage applies if there is a loss resulting from a catastrophic ground cover collapse. Damage consisting merely of the settling or cracking of a foundation, structure, or building does not constitute a loss resulting from a catastrophic ground cover collapse. (b) “Neutral evaluation” means the alternative dispute resolution provided in s. 627.7074. (c) “Neutral evaluator” means a professional engineer or a professional geologist who has completed a course of study in alternative dispute resolution designed or approved by the department for use in the neutral evaluation process and who is determined by the department to be fair and impartial. (d) “Primary structural member” means a structural element designed to provide support and stability for the vertical or lateral loads of the overall structure. (e) “Primary structural system” means an assemblage of primary structural members. (f) “Professional engineer” means a person, as defined in s. 471.005, who has a bachelor’s degree or higher in engineering. A professional engineer must also have experience and expertise in the identification of sinkhole activity as well as other potential causes of structural damage. (g) “Professional geologist” means a person, as defined in s. 492.102, who has a bachelor’s degree or higher in geology or related earth science and experience and expertise in the identification of sinkhole activity as well as other potential geologic causes of structural damage. (h) “Sinkhole” means a landform created by subsidence of soil, sediment, or rock as underlying strata are dissolved by groundwater. A sinkhole forms by collapse into subterranean voids created by dissolution of limestone or dolostone or by subsidence as these strata are dissolved. (i) “Sinkhole activity” means settlement or systematic weakening of the earth supporting the covered building only if the settlement or systematic weakening results from contemporaneous movement or raveling of soils, sediments, or rock materials into subterranean voids created by the effect of water on a limestone or similar rock formation. (j) “Sinkhole loss” means structural damage to the covered building, including the foundation, caused by sinkhole activity. Contents coverage and additional living expenses apply only if there is structural damage to the covered building caused by sinkhole activity. (k) “Structural damage” means a covered building, regardless of the date of its construction, has experienced the following: 1. Interior floor displacement or deflection in excess of acceptable variances as defined in ACI 117-90 or the Florida Building Code, which results in settlement-related damage to the interior such that the interior building structure or members become unfit for service or represents a safety hazard as defined within the Florida Building Code; 2. Foundation displacement or deflection in excess of acceptable variances as defined in ACI 318-95 or the Florida Building Code, which results in settlement-related damage to the primary structural members or primary structural systems that prevents those members or systems from supporting the loads and forces they were designed to support to the extent that stresses in those primary structural members or primary structural systems exceeds one and one-third the nominal strength allowed under the Florida Building Code for new buildings of similar structure, purpose, or location; 3. Damage that results in listing, leaning, or buckling of the exterior load-bearing walls or other vertical primary structural members to such an extent that a plumb line passing through the center of gravity does not fall inside the middle one-third of the base as defined within the Florida Building Code; 4. Damage that results in the building, or any portion of the building containing primary structural members or primary structural systems, being significantly likely to imminently collapse because of the movement or instability of the ground within the influence zone of the supporting ground within the sheer plane necessary for the purpose of supporting such building as defined within the Florida Building Code; or 5. Damage occurring on or after October 15, 2005, that qualifies as “substantial structural damage” as defined in the Florida Building Code. (3) Insurers offering policies that exclude coverage for sinkhole losses must inform policyholders in bold type of not less than 14 points as follows: “YOUR POLICY PROVIDES COVERAGE FOR A CATASTROPHIC GROUND COVER COLLAPSE THAT RESULTS IN THE PROPERTY BEING CONDEMNED AND UNINHABITABLE. OTHERWISE, YOUR POLICY DOES NOT PROVIDE COVERAGE FOR SINKHOLE LOSSES. YOU MAY PURCHASE ADDITIONAL COVERAGE FOR SINKHOLE LOSSES FOR AN ADDITIONAL PREMIUM.” (4) An insurer offering sinkhole coverage to policyholders before or after the adoption of s. 30, chapter 2007-1, Laws of Florida, may nonrenew the policies of policyholders maintaining sinkhole coverage at the option of the insurer, and provide an offer of coverage that includes catastrophic ground cover collapse and excludes sinkhole coverage. Insurers acting in accordance with this subsection are subject to the following requirements: (a) Policyholders must be notified that a nonrenewal is for purposes of removing sinkhole coverage, and that the policyholder is being offered a policy that provides coverage for catastrophic ground cover collapse. (b) Policyholders must be provided an actuarially reasonable premium credit or discount for the removal of sinkhole coverage and provision of only catastrophic ground cover collapse. (c) Subject to the provisions of this subsection and the insurer’s approved underwriting or insurability guidelines, the insurer shall provide each policyholder with the opportunity to purchase an endorsement to his or her policy providing sinkhole coverage and may require an inspection of the property before issuance of a sinkhole coverage endorsement. (d) Section 624.4305 does not apply to nonrenewal notices issued pursuant to this subsection. (5) Any claim, including, but not limited to, initial, supplemental, and reopened claims under an insurance policy that provides sinkhole coverage is barred unless notice of the claim was given to the insurer in accordance with the terms of the policy within 2 years after the policyholder knew or reasonably should have known about the sinkhole loss. History.—s. 2, ch. 81-280; s. 809(2nd), ch. 82-243; s. 79, ch. 82-386; s. 114, ch. 92-318; s. 8, ch. 2000-333; s. 1189, ch. 2003-261; s. 17, ch. 2005-111; s. 25, ch. 2006-12; s. 30, ch. 2007-1; s. 1, ch. 2009-178; s. 3, ch. 2011-11; s. 22, ch. 2011-39.
1627.7061 Coverage inquiries.— Inquiries about coverage on a property insurance contract are not claim activity, unless an actual claim is filed by the policyholder which results in a company investigation of the claim. History.—s. 78, ch. 92-318; s. 23, ch. 2011-39. 1627.707  Investigation of sinkhole claims; insurer payment; nonrenewals.— Upon receipt of a claim for a sinkhole loss to a covered building, an insurer must meet the following standards in investigating a claim: (1) The insurer must inspect the policyholder’s premises to determine if there is structural damage that may be the result of sinkhole activity. (2) If the insurer confirms that structural damage exists but is unable to identify a valid cause of such damage or discovers that such damage is consistent with sinkhole loss, the insurer shall engage a professional engineer or a professional geologist to conduct testing as provided in s. 627.7072 to determine the cause of the loss within a reasonable professional probability and issue a report as provided in s. 627.7073, only if sinkhole loss is covered under the policy. Except as provided in subsections (4) and (6), the fees and costs of the professional engineer or professional geologist shall be paid by the insurer. (3) Following the initial inspection of the policyholder’s premises, the insurer shall provide written notice to the policyholder disclosing the following information: (a) What the insurer has determined to be the cause of damage, if the insurer has made such a determination. (b) A statement of the circumstances under which the insurer is required to engage a professional engineer or a professional geologist to verify or eliminate sinkhole loss and to engage a professional engineer to make recommendations regarding land and building stabilization and foundation repair. (c) A statement regarding the right of the policyholder to request testing by a professional engineer or a professional geologist, the circumstances under which the policyholder may demand certain testing, and the circumstances under which the policyholder may incur costs associated with testing. (4)(a) If the insurer determines that there is no sinkhole loss, the insurer may deny the claim. (b) If coverage for sinkhole loss is available and the insurer denies the claim without performing testing under s. 627.7072, the policyholder may demand testing by the insurer under s. 627.7072. 1. The policyholder’s demand for testing must be communicated to the insurer in writing within 60 days after the policyholder’s receipt of the insurer’s denial of the claim. 2. The policyholder shall pay 50 percent of the actual costs of the analyses and services provided under ss. 627.7072  and 627.7073 or $2,500, whichever is less. 3. The insurer shall reimburse the policyholder for the costs if the insurer’s engineer or geologist provides written certification pursuant to s. 627.7073 that there is sinkhole loss. (5)  If a sinkhole loss is verified, the insurer shall pay to stabilize the land and building and repair the foundation in accordance with the recommendations of the professional engineer retained pursuant to subsection (2), with notice to the policyholder, subject to the coverage and terms of the policy. The insurer shall pay for other repairs to the structure and contents in accordance with the terms of the policy. If a covered building suffers a sinkhole loss or a catastrophic ground cover collapse, the insured must repair such damage or loss in accordance with the insurer’s professional engineer’s recommended repairs. However, if the insurer’s professional engineer determines that the repair cannot be completed within policy limits, the insurer must pay to complete the repairs recommended by the insurer’s professional engineer or tender the policy limits to the policyholder. (a) The insurer may limit its total claims payment to the actual cash value of the sinkhole loss, which does not include underpinning or grouting or any other repair technique performed below the existing foundation of the building, until the policyholder enters into a contract for the performance of building stabilization or foundation repairs in accordance with the recommendations set forth in the insurer’s report issued pursuant to s. 627.7073. (b) In order to prevent additional damage to the building or structure, the policyholder must enter into a contract for the performance of building stabilization and foundation repairs within 90 days after the insurance company confirms coverage for the sinkhole loss and notifies the policyholder of such confirmation. This time period is tolled if either party invokes the neutral evaluation process, and begins again 10 days after the conclusion of the neutral evaluation process. (c) After the policyholder enters into the contract for the performance of building stabilization and foundation repairs, the insurer shall pay the amounts necessary to begin and perform such repairs as the work is performed and the expenses are incurred. The insurer may not require the policyholder to advance payment for such repairs. If repair covered by a personal lines residential property insurance policy has begun and the professional engineer selected or approved by the insurer determines that the repair cannot be completed within the policy limits, the insurer must complete the professional engineer’s recommended repair or tender the policy limits to the policyholder without a reduction for the repair expenses incurred. (d) The stabilization and all other repairs to the structure and contents must be completed within 12 months after entering into the contract for repairs described in paragraph (b) unless: 1. There is a mutual agreement between the insurer and the policyholder; 2. The claim is involved with the neutral evaluation process; 3. The claim is in litigation; or 4. The claim is under appraisal or mediation. (e) Upon the insurer’s obtaining the written approval of any lienholder, the insurer may make payment directly to the persons selected by the policyholder to perform the land and building stabilization and foundation repairs. The decision by the insurer to make payment to such persons does not hold the insurer liable for the work performed. The policyholder may not accept a rebate from any person performing the repairs specified in this section. If a policyholder does receive a rebate, coverage is void and the policyholder must refund the amount of the rebate to the insurer. Any person making the repairs specified in this section who offers a rebate commits insurance fraud punishable as a third degree felony as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. (6) If the insurer obtains, pursuant to s. 627.7073, written certification that there is no sinkhole loss or that the cause of the damage was not sinkhole activity, and if the policyholder has submitted the sinkhole claim without good faith grounds for submitting such claim, the policyholder shall reimburse the insurer for 50 percent of the actual costs of the analyses and services provided under ss. 627.7072 and 627.7073; however, a policyholder is not required to reimburse an insurer more than $2,500 with respect to any claim. A policyholder is required to pay reimbursement under this subsection only if the policyholder requested the analysis and services provided under ss. 627.7072 and 627.7073 and the insurer, before ordering the analysis under s. 627.7072, informs the policyholder in writing of the policyholder’s potential liability for reimbursement and gives the policyholder the opportunity to withdraw the claim. (7) An insurer may not nonrenew any policy of property insurance on the basis of filing of claims for sinkhole loss if the total of such payments does not equal or exceed the policy limits of coverage for the policy in effect on the date of loss, for property damage to the covered building, as set forth on the declarations page, or if the policyholder repaired the structure in accordance with the engineering recommendations made pursuant to subsection (2) upon which any payment or policy proceeds were based. If the insurer pays such limits, it may nonrenew the policy. (8) The insurer may engage a professional structural engineer to make recommendations as to the repair of the structure. History.—s. 1, ch. 92-146; s. 4, ch. 93-401; s. 19, ch. 2005-111; s. 26, ch. 2006-12; s. 25, ch. 2011-39. 1627.7073 Sinkhole reports.— (1) Upon completion of testing as provided in s. 627.7072, the professional engineer or professional geologist shall issue a report and certification to the insurer and the policyholder as provided in this section. (a) Sinkhole loss is verified if, based upon tests performed in accordance with s. 627.7072, a professional engineer or a professional geologist issues a written report and certification stating: 1. That structural damage to the covered building has been identified within a reasonable professional probability. 2. That the cause of the structural damage is sinkhole activity within a reasonable professional probability. 3. That the analyses conducted were of sufficient scope to identify sinkhole activity as the cause of damage within a reasonable professional probability. 4. A description of the tests performed. 5. A recommendation by the professional engineer of methods for stabilizing the land and building and for making repairs to the foundation. (b) If there is no structural damage or if sinkhole activity is eliminated as the cause of such damage to the covered building, the professional engineer or professional geologist shall issue a written report and certification to the policyholder and the insurer stating: 1. That there is no structural damage or the cause of such damage is not sinkhole activity within a reasonable professional probability. 2. That the analyses and tests conducted were of sufficient scope to eliminate sinkhole activity as the cause of the structural damage within a reasonable professional probability. 3. A statement of the cause of the structural damage within a reasonable professional probability. 4. A description of the tests performed. (c) The respective findings, opinions, and recommendations of the insurer’s professional engineer or professional geologist as to the cause of distress to the property and the findings, opinions, and recommendations of the insurer’s professional engineer as to land and building stabilization and foundation repair set forth by s. 627.7072 shall be presumed correct. (2) An insurer that has paid a claim for a sinkhole loss shall file a copy of the report and certification, prepared pursuant to subsection (1), including the legal description of the real property and the name of the property owner, the neutral evaluator’s report, if any, which indicates that sinkhole activity caused the damage claimed, a copy of the certification indicating that stabilization has been completed, if applicable, and the amount of the payment, with the county clerk of court, who shall record the report and certification. The insurer shall bear the cost of filing and recording one or more reports and certifications. There shall be no cause of action or liability against an insurer for compliance with this section. (a) The recording of the report and certification does not: 1. Constitute a lien, encumbrance, or restriction on the title to the real property or constitute a defect in the title to the real property; 2. Create any cause of action or liability against any grantor of the real property for breach of any warranty of good title or warranty against encumbrances; or 3. Create any cause of action or liability against any title insurer that insures the title to the real property. (b) As a precondition to accepting payment for a sinkhole loss, the policyholder must file a copy of any sinkhole report regarding the insured property which was prepared on behalf or at the request of the policyholder. The policyholder shall bear the cost of filing and recording the sinkhole report. The recording of the report does not: 1. Constitute a lien, encumbrance, or restriction on the title to the real property or constitute a defect in the title to the real property; 2. Create any cause of action or liability against any grantor of the real property for breach of any warranty of good title or warranty against encumbrances; or 3. Create any cause of action or liability against a title insurer that insures the title to the real property. (c) The seller of real property upon which a sinkhole claim has been made by the seller and paid by the insurer must disclose to the buyer of such property, before the closing, that a claim has been paid and whether or not the full amount of the proceeds was used to repair the sinkhole damage. (3) Upon completion of any building stabilization or foundation repairs for a verified sinkhole loss, the professional engineer responsible for monitoring the repairs shall issue a report to the property owner which specifies what repairs have been performed and certifies within a reasonable degree of professional probability that such repairs have been properly performed. The professional engineer issuing the report shall file a copy of the report and certification, which includes a legal description of the real property and the name of the property owner, with the county clerk of the court, who shall record the report and certification. This subsection does not create liability for an insurer based on any representation or certification by a professional engineer related to the stabilization or foundation repairs for the verified sinkhole loss. History.—s. 21, ch. 2005-111; s. 28, ch. 2006-12; s. 26, ch. 2011-39. 1627.7074 Alternative procedure for resolution of disputed sinkhole insurance claims.— (1) The department shall: (a) Certify and maintain a list of persons who are neutral evaluators. (b)  Prepare a consumer information pamphlet for distribution by insurers to policyholders which clearly describes the neutral evaluation process and includes information necessary for the policyholder to request a neutral evaluation. (2) Neutral evaluation is available to either party if a sinkhole report has been issued pursuant to s. 627.7073. At a minimum, neutral evaluation must determine: (a) Causation; (b) All methods of stabilization and repair both above and below ground; (c) The costs for stabilization and all repairs; and (d) Information necessary to carry out subsection (12). (3) Following the receipt of the report provided under s. 627.7073 or the denial of a claim for a sinkhole loss, the insurer shall notify the policyholder of his or her right to participate in the neutral evaluation program under this section. Neutral evaluation supersedes the alternative dispute resolution process under s. 627.7015 but does not invalidate the appraisal clause of the insurance policy. The insurer shall provide to the policyholder the consumer information pamphlet prepared by the department pursuant to subsection (1) electronically or by United States mail. (4) Neutral evaluation is nonbinding, but mandatory if requested by either party. A request for neutral evaluation may be filed with the department by the policyholder or the insurer on a form approved by the department. The request for neutral evaluation must state the reason for the request and must include an explanation of all the issues in dispute at the time of the request. Filing a request for neutral evaluation tolls the applicable time requirements for filing suit for 60 days following the conclusion of the neutral evaluation process or the time prescribed in s. 95.11, whichever is later. (5) Neutral evaluation shall be conducted as an informal process in which formal rules of evidence and procedure need not be observed. A party to neutral evaluation is not required to attend neutral evaluation if a representative of the party attends and has the authority to make a binding decision on behalf of the party. All parties shall participate in the evaluation in good faith. The neutral evaluator must be allowed reasonable access to the interior and exterior of insured structures to be evaluated or for which a claim has been made. Any reports initiated by the policyholder, or an agent of the policyholder, confirming a sinkhole loss or disputing another sinkhole report regarding insured structures must be provided to the neutral evaluator before the evaluator’s physical inspection of the insured property. (6) The insurer shall pay reasonable costs associated with the neutral evaluation. However, if a party chooses to hire a court reporter or stenographer to contemporaneously record and document the neutral evaluation, that party must bear such costs. (7) Upon receipt of a request for neutral evaluation, the department shall provide the parties a list of certified neutral evaluators. The department shall allow the parties to submit requests to disqualify evaluators on the list for cause. (a) The department shall disqualify neutral evaluators for cause based only on any of the following grounds: 1. A familial relationship exists between the neutral evaluator and either party or a representative of either party within the third degree. 2. The proposed neutral evaluator has, in a professional capacity, previously represented either party or a representative of either party, in the same or a substantially related matter. 3. The proposed neutral evaluator has, in a professional capacity, represented another person in the same or a substantially related matter and that person’s interests are materially adverse to the interests of the parties. The term “substantially related matter” means participation by the neutral evaluator on the same claim, property, or adjacent property. 4. The proposed neutral evaluator has, within the preceding 5 years, worked as an employer or employee of any party to the case. (b) The parties shall appoint a neutral evaluator from the department list and promptly inform the department. If the parties cannot agree to a neutral evaluator within 14 business days, the department shall appoint a neutral evaluator from the list of certified neutral evaluators. The department shall allow each party to disqualify two neutral evaluators without cause. Upon selection or appointment, the department shall promptly refer the request to the neutral evaluator. (c) Within 14 business days after the referral, the neutral evaluator shall notify the policyholder and the insurer of the date, time, and place of the neutral evaluation conference. The conference may be held by telephone, if feasible and desirable. The neutral evaluator shall make reasonable efforts to hold the conference within 90 days after the receipt of the request by the department. Failure of the neutral evaluator to hold the conference within 90 days does not invalidate either party’s right to neutral evaluation or to a neutral evaluation conference held outside this timeframe. (8) For policyholders not represented by an attorney, a consumer affairs specialist of the department or an employee designated as the primary contact for consumers on issues relating to sinkholes under s. 20.121 shall be available for consultation to the extent that he or she may lawfully do so. (9) Evidence of an offer to settle a claim during the neutral evaluation process, as well as any relevant conduct or statements made in negotiations concerning the offer to settle a claim, is inadmissible to prove liability or absence of liability for the claim or its value, except as provided in subsection (14). (10) Regardless of when noticed, any court proceeding related to the subject matter of the neutral evaluation shall be stayed pending completion of the neutral evaluation and for 5 days after the filing of the neutral evaluator’s report with the court. (11) If, based upon his or her professional training and credentials, a neutral evaluator is qualified to determine only disputes relating to causation or method of repair, the department shall allow the neutral evaluator to enlist the assistance of another professional from the neutral evaluators list not previously stricken, who, based upon his or her professional training and credentials, is able to provide an opinion as to other disputed issues. A professional who would be disqualified for any reason listed in subsection (7) must be disqualified. The neutral evaluator may also use the services of professional engineers and professional geologists who are not certified as neutral evaluators, as well as licensed building contractors, in order to ensure that all items in dispute are addressed and the neutral evaluation can be completed. Any professional engineer, professional geologist, or licensed building contractor retained may be disqualified for any of the reasons listed in subsection (7). The neutral evaluator may request the entity that performed the investigation pursuant to s. 627.7072 perform such additional and reasonable testing as deemed necessary in the professional opinion of the neutral evaluator. (12) At the conclusion of the neutral evaluation, the neutral evaluator shall prepare a report describing all matters that are the subject of the neutral evaluation, including whether, in his or her opinion, the sinkhole loss has been verified or eliminated within a reasonable degree of professional probability and, if verified, whether the sinkhole activity caused structural damage to the covered building, and, if so, the need for and estimated costs of stabilizing the land and any covered buildings and other appropriate remediation or necessary building repairs due to the sinkhole loss. The evaluator’s report shall be sent to all parties and to the department, within 14 days after completing the neutral evaluation conference. (13) The recommendation of the neutral evaluator is not binding on any party, and the parties retain access to the court. The neutral evaluator’s written recommendation, oral testimony, and full report shall be admitted in any action, litigation, or proceeding relating to the claim or to the cause of action giving rise to the claim. (14) If the neutral evaluator verifies the existence of a sinkhole that caused structural damage and recommends the need for and estimates costs of stabilizing the land and any covered buildings and other appropriate remediation or building repairs which exceed the amount that the insurer has offered to pay the policyholder, the insurer is liable to the policyholder for up to $2,500 in attorney’s fees for the attorney’s participation in the neutral evaluation process. For purposes of this subsection, the term “offer to pay” means a written offer signed by the insurer or its legal representative and delivered to the policyholder within 10 days after the insurer receives notice that a request for neutral evaluation has been made under this section. (15) If the insurer timely agrees in writing to comply and timely complies with the recommendation of the neutral evaluator, but the policyholder declines to resolve the matter in accordance with the recommendation of the neutral evaluator pursuant to this section: (a) The insurer is not liable for extracontractual damages related to a claim for a sinkhole loss but only as related to the issues determined by the neutral evaluation process. This section does not affect or impair claims for extracontractual damages unrelated to the issues determined by the neutral evaluation process contained in this section; and (b) The actions of the insurer are not a confession of judgment or admission of liability, and the insurer is not liable for attorney’s fees under s. 627.428 or other provisions of the insurance code unless the policyholder obtains a judgment that is more favorable than the recommendation of the neutral evaluator. (16) If the insurer agrees to comply with the neutral evaluator’s report, payments shall be made in accordance with the terms and conditions of the applicable insurance policy pursuant to s. 627.707(5). (17) Neutral evaluators are deemed to be agents of the department and have immunity from suit as provided in s. 44.107. (18) The department shall adopt rules of procedure for the neutral evaluation process. History.—s. 29, ch. 2006-12; s. 27, ch. 2011-39.
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