North Carolina is not known for being a hotbed of sinkhole activity in the United States. That’s a dubious distinction that the U.S. Geological Survey says is granted to a number of other states, including Tennessee to the west and Florida to the south.
That doesn’t mean we in the Tar Heel state are immune from sudden property drop-offs. WNCN-TV reported in July about how a sinkhole ate up a lane of U.S. 1 in Franklin County after a pipeline burst. And The Citizen-Times of Asheville recently noted that a sinkhole in downtown left several sections of sidewalk somewhat hazardous.
This might prompt some readers to ask what are the implications if I happen to be walking over hole that opens up just at that moment and I get swallowed up? If I’m hurt, can I seek compensation for my injuries under a claim of premises liability?
The USGS says that sinkholes form where rock that is particularly porous gets eroded away by circulating groundwater. They don’t tend to form gradually. Rather, gaps open up and the surface usually stays intact until one day, there’s a dramatic collapse.
So consider this, successful premises liability claims typically depend on being able to prove that a property owner’s negligence contributed to the accident.
For example, if a spill of liquid on a store’s floor isn’t cleaned up promptly and someone slips and falls, that might constitute negligence on the part of the storeowner. If a vicious dog is off its leash and attacks, that might warrant a claim against the owner.
The suddenness of a sinkhole might make it difficult to show a property owner was negligent.
Still, if you suspect that you have been the victim of a property owner’s disregard, you should turn to someone experienced in investigating and pursuing such matters. To learn how our firm might serve in this way, visit our premises liability page.