Property damage can be devastating — and costly. If you own property in Florida, you know that many weather conditions can cause damage to your home, business, or other structures. Whether the damage was caused by a natural disaster, windstorm, hurricane, hailstorm, leak, fire, vandalism, or another occurrence, your insurance policy is meant to cover you in the event of any destruction or loss. However, it’s important to be aware that there are numerous time limits associated with making a Florida property damage claim.
There are specific timeframes in which you must report a claim to your insurance company. There are also rules that insurance companies must follow concerning the timeline of their communications with you. In addition, there are specific statutes of limitation for pursuing a property damage claim in a Florida court. If you fail to adhere to the applicable time frames, receiving a payout from the insurance company for the loss of your investment can become much more complicated.
Under Florida law, insurance policies are considered contractual agreements entered into between the insurance company and the policyholder. In a claim for property damage, your policy is the starting point. Each insurance policy has different terms and will contain important information concerning what types of damage and occurrences are covered or excluded.
Importantly, your insurance policy also specifies how long you have to report a property damage claim to the insurance company. The insurance company may try to deny your claim outright if you do not file within the specified time frame.
If your property damage claim is brought under your homeowner’s insurance policy, the insurance company must provide you with a Homeowner’s Claims Bill of Rights within 14 days after you gave notice. This document outlines the relevant timelines that the insurance company must follow in communicating with you as well as investigating and processing your claim.
Hurricane and windstorm claims are extremely common in Florida. In fact, there have been over one million insurance claims filed for property damage caused by Hurricane Irma, with most relating to residential property damage.
Under Florida law, notice of windstorm or hurricane claims must be given to the insurance company within three years after the hurricane first hit land. The statutes of limitations for filing a property damage claim related to the three most recent hurricanes in Florida include:
Regardless of the notice requirements in your policy, it’s a good idea to contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the damage occurred to provide prompt notice of your claim. Providing notice right away can help you avoid running into any applicable deadlines. When you call, have your policy number available and document who you spoke with, the date, the time, and any claim number you were given. Documenting the conversation can help if issues arise later.
After your initial communication with the insurance company, you will also need to complete a proof of loss statement within the time frame specified in your policy. Once this document is provided, the insurance company must begin their investigation into your claim within ten days.
It’s important to make sure that your damages are carefully documented and that you provide the insurance company with adequate proof of loss of your investment. Take photos or videos of any damage or destruction and keep any receipts for repairs to provide with your claim. If the insurance company agrees to cover the property damage, they have twenty days to tender payment from the date you enter into a settlement.
If the insurance company has denied your claim, undervalued it, or is delaying payment, you may need to pursue a claim in court. There are numerous reasons why an insurance company may try to deny a claim including policy exclusions, failure to pay your premium, alleged fraud, or insufficient documentation of the damage — a specific reason for the denial must be given to you by the insurance company.
Unfortunately, insurance companies may deny a claim in bad faith or cancel your policy to avoid making a payout on your claim. Since insurance policies are considered contractual agreements in Florida, an insurance company may be in breach if they refuse to pay your claim. In such cases, there is a five-year statute of limitations to commence an action against the insurance company for breach of contract under Florida Law.
While it’s always best to file a claim right away, there may be situations that prevent you from doing so. If you try to file a late claim, the insurance company will likely deny your claim and assert what is known under Florida law as the “late notice defense.”
Under Florida law, there is a presumption of prejudice to the insurance company if you file a late claim. However, providing late notice doesn’t necessarily bar you from receiving compensation for your claim. If you have filed a claim late, the burden is on you to prove that there is no prejudice to the insurer in carrying out their investigation. Generally, this can be demonstrated by showing that the insurance company’s investigation was not adversely affected by filing a late claim.
If you experienced damage to your home, business, or other property and your insurance policy has denied your claim or will not cover the full extent of your damages, it is best to contact an attorney who can help you get the compensation you deserve.
An experienced Florida property damage attorney can help you navigate the complexities of your policy and protect your rights to ensure you receive a fair payout from the insurance company. Contact Cordova Law Firm PLLC today by calling us at (321) CORDOVA to get with started resolving your property damage claim.