How soon must you file a property damage claim with your insurer?
A federal court of appeals has affirmed a summary judgment against a condominium association that filed a $6.2 million claim after Hurricane Wilma.
A three-judge panel of the Circuit Court ruled that the The Yacht Club on the Intracoastal Condominium Association Inc. did not give prompt notice of loss to Lexington Insurance Co. in October 2005. No claim was filed until July 2010. The condominium board said it failed to act sooner because it did not know the full extent of the damage until years had passed.
According to the opinion, the Hypoluxo, Florida Yacht Club was aware that it had some damage to its buildings when the storm hit in 2005, but it believed that the repair costs would not exceed the $100,000 deductible of its insurance policy.
Over time, structural problems with the buildings began to appear. In 2006, when the Yacht Club began considering a lawsuit against its developer for construction and design deficiencies, it hired an engineering firm to inspect the property. The firm reported that the roof problems were due to damage by Hurricane Wilma.
In 2009, according to the opinion, the board was informed that there was significant damage related to Wilma and that it would be advisable to file a claim. In July 2010, the condominium association sent Lexington formal notice of loss. Later that year, it sued for $6.2 million in damages, although the policy had a limit of $5 million.
In the district court, Lexington argued that The Yacht Club did not give prompt notice as the policy required. The district court agreed with this argument and granted Lexington a summary judgment.
The Circuit Court affirmed, saying that prompt notice is not excused just because a policyholder was not aware of the full scope of damage or that the cost of repairs would be greater than the deductible.
It said the board knew that there was at least some damage from Hurricane Wilma and should have filed a claim earlier. In addition, because the notice came so late, the insurer had no opportunity to conduct its own investigation.
Delays, missed deadlines, and technical errors are the Achilles heel of many otherwise valid insurance claims. Skilled counsel can advise you on how to preserve your right to make a claim and help you make your best case for getting coverage. Experienced, Tampa, Florida-based property insurance attorney Jeff Pekar has achieved results for clients with hurricane, flood, sinkhole and many other types of property damage. For a free initial consultation, call (813) 712-8762 today.