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Florida public adjuster responds to ‘Wall Street Journal’ sinkhole claim criticism

Experts in sinkhole property damage claims at Tutwiler and Associates address the incomplete reporting that focused too much on insurance companies and not enough on the plight of the property owner.
September 22, 2010 / TAMPA, Fla. / 

A recent article about the rise in Florida sinkhole claims in the ‘Wall Street Journal’ falls short of fully explaining the issue, according to Florida-based public adjuster Tutwiler and Associates. The article is grabbing attention from homeowners around the country and the firm’s sinkhole experts say the story seems to address the issue of sinkhole property damage claims primarily from the point of view of the insurance companies, and paints a picture of greedy homeowners and opportunistic public adjusters.

(Read the ‘Wall Street Journal’ article here:

“The ‘Wall Street Journal’ is a business newspaper and, as such, understandably needs to look at this issue from a financial standpoint," says Dick Tutwiler, founder and CEO of Tutwiler and Associates. "But this isn’t an issue you can just partly cover. What surprises us is the lack of reporting on the questionable practices on the part of some insurance companies who deny sinkhole claims to their policyholders and then reverse course when the policyholder seeks professional help from a public adjuster. I’ve been a public adjuster for 37 years and I’ve never learned, nor do I want to know, how to fabricate a sinkhole. It’s either there or it’s not."

The licensed and certified public adjusters at Tutwiler and Associates, with offices throughout Florida and licenses in nine other states as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, say that while there are sure to be unscrupulous public adjuster firms like the one described in the article that blanket neighborhoods with fliers and phone calls, there are far more dedicated and honest public adjusters who take the time to counsel a property owner on what to look for with regard to signs of a potential sinkhole. Tutwiler says it’s not uncommon for his sinkhole experts to even go so far as to conduct an inspection themselves, to determine a sinkhole claim’s viability before helping the property owner proceed with his or her claim.

“The truth is the public adjusters and policyholder attorneys are the only one acting as  consumer advocates when it comes to sinkhole claims,” says Tutwiler. “If left to their own, the insurance carriers would legislate sinkhole coverage out of existence in all but the most severe cases in order to protect their bottom line.”

The ‘Wall Street Journal’ article quotes Kevin McCarty, commissioner of Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation, who claims public adjusters have had to “direct their attention elsewhere” in an effort to find customers with property damage claims, due to a lack of major hurricane damage over the last several years. Tutwiler takes particular umbrage with this insinuation, and says the increase in Florida sinkhole claims is instead a byproduct of decades of phenomenal growth in sinkhole-prone areas and an improvement in sinkhole education on the part of responsible property owners.

"Isn’t it possible, likely in fact, that property owners are also becoming more aware of possible signs of sinkhole damage because they are now better educated on what to look for?,” says Tutwiler, whose team of licensed and certified public adjusters have handled hundreds of sinkhole claims throughout the Gulf Coast region. "How is this any different from men and women becoming more aggressive about prostate and breast cancer screening? As more people become educated about screening and the technology to indentify these conditions improves, the more cases are detected and the better prevention against conditions that can cost much more to treat if caught at later stages. And in the case of where there are visible signs of a sinkhole, shouldn’t insured’s have the right to investigate it in order to ward off even worse damage? Just as in the medical field, preventative measures in sinkholes investigation and early detection methods have gotten better, which is naturally going to lead to more claims.”

Tutwiler suggests perhaps the “moral high road” with regard to the sinkhole claims issue would be to require a bold print warning in all real estate contracts that would notify a prospective property owner about sinkholes and their lack of coverage should sinkhole protection be further reduced or taken out of policies altogether by insurance companies more interested in protecting their bottom line than serving their policyholders.

For more information about Florida sinkhole claims, please visit

Tutwiler and Associates
Phone: (800) 321-4488
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About Tutwiler and Associates: Tutwiler and Associates is a firm of public adjusters licensed in 10 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands specializing in commercial and residential property loss adjusting. With well in excess of $113 million in client success stories over a 27-year history, the Florida public adjusters work exclusively on behalf of policyholders to help them achieve the maximum settlement amounts they can fairly and honestly recover based on their loss and their policy provisions. Professional help from the adjusters at Tutwiler and Associates can help clients obtain a fair recovery under their policy. The Gulf Coast based public adjuster firm is committed to public service and strives to educate its clients about commercial and residential windstorm and hurricane losses, flood damage, fire, smoke and water damage, collapse, hidden decay and mold losses, sinkholes, loss of stock, and business interruption.