07 Dec Post-Loss Compliance: Giving Immediate Notice of Your Loss
Property insurance policies impose responsibilities on an insured in the event of a loss. One of those responsibilities is to provide notice of the claim. The purpose of a policy’s notice provision is to allow the insurance company to evaluate its rights and afford it an opportunity to investigate the claim. In Florida, an insured’s failure to provide timely notice is a legal basis for the denial of recovery. Further, failure to give timely notice creates a rebuttable presumption of prejudice to the insurer. That presumption means an insured would then have the burden to prove that the late notice did not cause prejudice to the insurance company.
In Florida, there is no specific cut-off for what is considered to be “prompt” notice. Instead, courts analyze this issue on a case by case basis. In LoBello v. State Farm Fla. Insurance Co., for example, new homeowners moved into their home in 2002 and noticed cracking two years later in 2004, which they attributed to normal settling of the home. Four years later, they filed a sinkhole claim with their insurer when they learned that the cracking was due to a sinkhole. In LoBello, the Court found that whether the insureds provided prompt notice was a question for the jury. Conversely, Florida courts have interpreted “prompt” differently when the damage is caused by a known event, such as a hurricane. For example, in 1500 Coral Towers Condo. Ass’n Inc. v. Citizens Prop. Insurance Corp., the insured admitted that it had some knowledge of damage to the apartment complex within a month after Hurricane Wilma. However, no insurance claim was made until June 29, 2010, almost five years after the date of loss. The Court in 1500 Coral Towers conclusively found that the insured failed to give timely notice of the loss.
Wesley Farrell, Esq., Partner at Farrell, Patel, Jomarron & Lopez writes:
“It is better to be safe and provide notice of a loss as soon as possible, rather than risk losing benefits by giving an insurer a late notice defense. Not all damage is visible and you don’t want the insurance company to allege that you did not fully report your loss. If you don’t know or you aren’t sure of the extent of the damage, consider saying that you “can see some damage but there could be more because you have not had an opportunity to see the roof or attic for example.” If you have a claim that has been denied based on late notice, I would encourage you to contact Farrell, Patel, Jomarron & Lopez today so that one of our our skilled attorneys can help”
If you sustain damage to property from a hurricane, or other event, it is prudent to promptly notify the insurance company. You do not want to find yourself in the position of later having to prove that you provided prompt notice. The important thing to remember is to be diligent in pursuing your claim. This will increase your chances of successfully resolving your case.