What is the duty to notify your insurance company promptly and what are the consequences of failing to do so?
After a hurricane, insurance companies may find themselves overwhelmed with claims. Some of these claims may not be covered, may be meritless, or may be fraudulent. This problem, compounded with the fact that insurance companies make more money by not paying claims, provides insurance companies with ample incentive to comb through insurances policies to find whatever reason they can to deny as many claims as they can.
After such an event, many people will have sustained property damages and business losses. A typical insurance policy will contain language imposing on the insured a duty to give the insurance company “prompt notice” of any damages or losses sustained. Unfortunately – and perhaps due to the impacts associated with such a traumatic event – many people fail to appreciate the importance of notifying their insurance company of their damages as quickly as is practicable. The problem is that a failure to give prompt and proper notice often forms the basis of a claim denial.
From the insurance company’s perspective, receiving prompt and proper notice provides the insurer an opportunity to make a reasonable investigation. Thus, prompt notice allows your insurance company a chance to evaluate your coverage, to determine the extent of your damages, and to investigate the merits of your claim. Needless to say, it is in the insured’s best interest to notify their insurer of their damages or losses as soon as possible.
What is Prompt Notice?
Your policy may specify the amount of time in which a claim must be filed after the damage, but more likely the policy will simply state that notice must be “prompt” or “as soon as practicable.” However, these provisions are generally construed as meaning the time must be reasonable in light of all of the circumstances. Generally, this means that notice must be communicated as soon as you know, or should know of the damages upon a reasonable inspection.
Prompt notice means timely notice of the event that caused the damage, as well as prompt notice of the property that has been damaged and the specific damages to that property. In the case of business losses, prompt notice also means the specific lost income, or extra expenses, the insured is claiming. The more specific the notice, the better off you will be. This will give the insurer little opportunity to claim that they were prevented from conducting a reasonable investigation due to defective notice.
Moreover, insurance companies generally attempt to prioritize and resolve claims not just in the order in which they are reported, but also based on the severity of the damage. Generally, the more severe the damage, the more immediate repairs may need to be done to prevent further damage, or in the case of your home, immediacy may be required in order to make the home habitable again. Thus, reporting your claim as quickly and as adequately as possible will provide your insurer the necessary information to be as efficient as possible.
Bottom line: Notify your insurance company, as soon as possible, of any Hurricane Irma damage and confirm it in writing.
It is not enough to simply give notice, you must be cautiously proactive. Many people do not have the knowledge, patience, or time to deal with the claims process. For these people, hiring a reputable public adjuster may be a good idea. Public adjusters are professionals that deal with insurance claims for a living, and are paid on a contingency basis to represent you during the claims process. A good public adjuster will know how to comply with the notice requirements of your policy, and will make the claims process go smoother.
When dealing with insurance companies, you should make it a habit to keep well-documented records of all communications you’ve had with your insurer. Make a log of all conversations you’ve had with your insurer, the name of the person you dealt with, their job-title, time and date, etc. You should also send a confirmation letter or email to anyone you spoke with acknowledging the communication, as well as the substance of the matters discussed. This will prevent the insurance company from later denying the communication.
When you are reporting your damages, make sure that you are reporting all patently obvious damages, as well as the possibility of latent damages. Many times, the damages may not be readily apparent and will remain dormant before surfacing some time later. The problem is that if you failed to notify your insurance company of the possibility of a latent defect then they probably did not investigate that possibility. When the damage finally comes to light, your insurance company may claim that those damages did not result from the earlier covered event.
You can reach Miami Insurance Claims Lawyer J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo by dialing his direct number at (786) 272-5841, calling the main office at (305) 461-1095, or Toll Free at 1 (866) 71-CLAIM or email Attorney Gonzalez-Sirgo directly at [email protected].