Insurance Coverage and Bad Faith

Late Notice on First Party Property Cases

Late Notice on First Party Property Cases

Insurance companies are all too familiar with late notice claims.  They can receive first party property claims even up to five years after the alleged damage occurred.  Late notices make it more difficult for the insurer and it can be tricky when determining coverage for several reasons, including spoliation of evidence. 

How common is it for insurance carriers to receive late notice property claims?

It is quite common actually. For example, in some cases, carriers are just now receiving first notice claims for alleged damage from the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes.

Don’t most policies stipulate a time limit on filing claims? Does the law say anything about time limits?

Policy conditions typically require “prompt notice.”   Florida law says that if you fail to provide proper notice, prejudice to the carrier is presumed. It is then the insured’s burden to show the lack of prejudice. If the insured cannot carry this burden, then coverage should not be found to exist.

What challenges does the carrier face with late notice claims?

The most glaring problem is that the carrier has no way to verify the damage and its cause after so much time has passed. Many times the damage has already been repaired, leaving nothing to inspect. With the passage of time the damage can deteriorate further.

What other conditions are imposed upon the insured?

Homeowners policies typically contain post-loss conditions which require submission of a sworn proof of loss statement, either within a certain number of days after a loss or at the request of the insurer. Policies also require an inventory of damaged personal property and require the insured to provide other records and documents the insurer may request. The insured is also required to show the carrier the damaged property and is typically required to submit to an examination under oath if requested.

What if these conditions are not satisfied by the insured?

Courts in Florida have held that a material breach of a condition precedent to recovery and/or suit relieves the insurer of its obligations under the policy. For example, courts have found no coverage under a policy in situations where an insured has failed to submit to an examination under oath or submit a sworn proof of loss.