In Florida, most homeowners insurance policies contain a clause stating how soon a policyholder is required to report their insurance claim to the insurance company.  Although each insurance policy differs slightly regarding notice to the insurance company, most policies consist of essentially the same reporting requirement. When a loss occurs a policy holder must:

give prompt notice to us or our agent
Just about every homeowners insurance policy contains this requirement and almost all of them use the word “prompt.”  Unfortunately, insurance policies do not define what constitutes “prompt” notice and as a result, whether an insurance claim is considered to have been reported “promptly” very much depends on the facts of each claim.

For example, during hurricane Wilma, many policyholders suffered damage to their roofs that was not immediately noticeable so these policyholders did not file insurance claims.  It is not until sometime later that the policyholder’s roof would begin to leak from the damage caused by the hurricane.  Because of this, some policyholders first reported their hurricane Wilma claim to their insurance company months and sometimes years after hurricane Wilma came through Florida.  These “late reported” claims resulted in years of litigation in Florida Courts regarding what constitutes “prompt” notice and whether the insurance company is required to pay for the insurance claim when the notice is not “prompt.”

Reporting of Non-Hurricane Related Insurance Claims

For typical property insurance claims that do not result from hurricane damage, such as plumbing leaks, fires, drain backup, etc., “prompt” has been interpreted by Florida courts, in the most simplest sense, to mean that you must report your claim such that the insurance company is not prevented from conducting a full independent investigation and determination of coverage for your insurance claim under your insurance policy. Florida courts typically refer to this concept as “prejudice”, and depending on how “prompt” your reporting was, prejudice may be presumed against you and you may be required to prove that the reporting of your insurance claim did not “prejudice” the insurance company. For a full discussion of the legal standard for “prejudice”, you can read the Third District Court of Appeals case of Hope v. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation here. Some of the things that may considered “prejudicial” to the insurance company are:

  • Repairs made to the home such that the insurance company cannot inspect the damages that existed at the time of the loss
  • Discarding plumbing parts, pipes, or damaged building materials making them unavailable for inspection by the insurance company
  • Failing to protect the property from additional damage resulting in further damage that makes it impossible for the insurance company to inspect the damages as they existed at the time of loss

Although these factors may make it more difficult to recover from the insurance company, they do not necessarily preclude you from doing so. Contact us for a free evaluation of your claim.

Reporting of Hurricane Related Insurance Claims

Since hurricane Wilma, the Florida legislature has created Fla. Stat. § 627.70132 which specifically address the time in which an insurance claim involving damage from a hurricane must be reported to the insurance company:

A claim, supplemental claim, or reopened claim . . . for loss or damage caused by the peril of windstorm or hurricane is barred unless notice of the claim . . . was given to the insurer . . . within 3 years after the hurricane first made landfall or the windstorm caused the covered damage.

If you have any questions about your insurance claim, please contact us.