When your home is damaged in a storm, the first step toward rebuilding is typically to file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance company. While most homeowners will file their claims promptly, whether due to travel, roadblocks that prevent access to neighborhood streets or other issues, some homeowners may not be able to file their claims right away.
Regardless of the circumstances, if your home has been damaged in a storm, it is important to notify your insurance company of the damage as soon as possible. In a recent decision, one Florida court ruled that a homeowner was not entitled to coverage because he had waited too long to file a claim under his policy.
Florida Appellate Court: Homeowners Who Delayed Insurance Claim Not Entitled to Coverage
In the case of De La Rosa v. Florida Peninsula Insurance Co. (Fla. App. 2018), the homeowner sought $22,274 in coverage for the costs of repairing water damage to a master bathroom. The homeowner first noticed the damage in 2014, paid directly for renovations in February 2015 and then filed an insurance claim in July 2015. According to the court’s written opinion, the delay in seeking insurance coverage was due to the fact that the homeowner “was not aware of his rights under his insurance policy.”
Florida Peninsula Insurance Co. denied the homeowner’s claim on the grounds that he had failed to provide time notice of the damage, based in part on the fact that it did not have the opportunity to inspect the damage before the repairs were made. The homeowner filed a coverage dispute in court, but both the trial court and the appellate court sided with the insurer.
While the homeowner’s insurance policy required him to provide “prompt” notice of any claims, this was not the sole reason for the outcome of the case. The courts also examined whether the delay in notice “prejudiced” the insurance company, and determined that it did. Based on this prejudice, the insurance company was entitled to the protections afforded by the notice provision in the policy, and the homeowner’s claim for coverage was denied.
Tips for Ensuring that You File Your Homeowner’s Insurance Claim on Time
There is no hard-and-fast rule for what constitutes “prompt” notice of an insured loss. While this case was unique in that the homeowner had repairs performed before contacting his insurance company, property owners waiting to return to their homes after a storm should still make every effort to file their insurance claims as soon as possible. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Review the terms of your policy to make sure you are aware of any notice requirements or specific deadlines that apply
- Take photos and video of your home before the storm
- Prepare a pre-storm inventory of your personal property
- Make arrangements with a neighbor or call a friend who can visit your home promptly if you are unable to do so
- Contact your insurance company before making any temporary repairs
Contact the Broward County Insurance Claim Lawyers at Saavedra | Goodwin
At Saavedra | Goodwin, we help South Florida homeowners secure coverage under their home and flood insurance policies. If you are struggling to obtain coverage and would like to speak with an attorney, please call (954) 928-9568 or request a consultation online today.