Some losses are not as readily apparent to policyholders as a fire or significant water loss. The policyholder may not discover the damage until days, weeks or months after the loss occurred. This can often be the case for hail losses to roofs. However, when the policyholder gives notice weeks or months after the loss, the insurance carrier will often claim late notice and rely on the notice condition in the insurance policy to deny coverage.
When is notice of a claim too late in Georgia?
There is no rule of thumb that applies to all cases universally, but Georgia courts have deemed a delay of as little as three months between filing a lawsuit and notice to the insurer as unreasonable as a matter of law.1 Similarly, a Georgia federal court found that a four-month delay between the lawsuit and the date of notice was unreasonable under Georgia law, absent a valid excuse.2
When determining whether the notice is timely the courts look at whether the policyholder exercised due diligence and/or have reasonable justifications for the delay.
Justification for failure to give notice as soon as practicable, “may not include the insured’s conclusion that he was free of fault and that there was no liability to the other party. That is the very issue which the company must have reasonable opportunity to investigate with promptness, and which requires a prompt notice of the occurrence.”3
Unlike many states, under Georgia law the insurance carrier is not required to show it was prejudiced by the insured’s failure to give timely notice.4
Bottom line—give notice of the loss as soon as possible to the insurance carrier to avoid any argument of late notice.
1 Diggs v. S. Ins. Co., 172 Ga. App. 37, 321 A.E.2d 792 (1984).
2 State Farm Fire & Cas Co. v. LeBlanc, 494 Fed. Appx. 17, 23 (11th Cir. 2012).
3 Richmond v. Georgia Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 140 Ga. App. 215, 220, 231 S.E.2d 245 (1976).
4 State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. LeBlanc, 494 Fed.Appx. 17, 21 (11th Cir. 2012).