When it comes to insurance policies, understanding the fine print can make a crucial difference in avoiding a claim denial – particularly with regard to filing deadlines.
Oftentimes, insurers impose a 30- or 60-day deadline within which a policyholder must file a claim. Failure to meet the deadline can be disastrous for the claimant, as insurance companies are known for holding homeowners to the drop dead time limit without room for error.
But how strict is this deadline practically speaking? For instance, many Floridians reside in their homes for just a fraction of the year – and live elsewhere during the blistering summer months. In this scenario, the insured might not be aware of damage to the property until months after it has occurred – and may find the claim time-barred.
Fortunately, there may be loopholes available to insureds who are dreading the denial of a high-value claim based on a running of the time limitation. In Florida, there exists a presumption that requiring the insurance company to honor a late notice would be hardship to the company. However, the insured may be able to rebut this presumption with the introduction of evidence to the contrary – and, if successful, may continue with his or her claim.
The issue of timely submission of claims is one which can derail a case before it even gets started. Under applicable procedural rules, an insurance company can seek a dismissal of the claim at the summary judgment stage by asserting that there is no factual dispute between the parties. If the insured cannot provide evidence at this early stage that the late notice would not be a hardship to the insurance company, the case will be dismissed and officially time barred.
In fact, recently a Florida Court of Appeals reiterated this concept in Marbella Condominium Association Inc. v. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, which involved the late filing of an insurance claim to Citizens Property Insurance Corp. When the claim was denied, the association initiated an appeal to the trial court, at which point the insurance company moved to dismiss the case on summary judgment – arguing that the deadline was clearly missed, and the condominium could not rebut this presumption in favor of the insurer. The trial court granted the summary judgment, and the ruling was affirmed by the Third District Court of Appeals on February 11, 2015.
In the words of the court, “[t]he determination of whether the insured gave timely notice to the insurer is ordinarily a question to be resolved by the jury or trial judge when acting as the trier of the facts…. On the other hand, if the undisputed evidence will not support a finding that the insured gave notice to the insurer as soon as practicable, then a finding that notice was timely given is unsupportable.”
If you are having difficulty with your property insurer and would like to discuss your rights, please contact Tampa property insurance attorney Jeff Pekar today by calling us.