Many of our recent blogs—before Hurricane Irma made landfall—discussed hurricane preparedness. In those posts, we urged insureds to have their insurance policies handy so they would have the pertinent information to notify their insurance carrier of their loss.
In Florida, one important time frame to be aware of regarding a property damage or hurricane damage is the date when the insured provides a notice of loss to the insurance carrier. Most policies provide under the Loss Conditions section that the insured provide “prompt notice” of the loss or damage, or “as soon as practicable.”
How this is interpreted is important because failure to give timely notice of loss may be a legal basis for denial of recovery under the policy.1
Florida courts recognize that the purpose of the prompt notice condition is to afford the insurer an opportunity to investigate, eliminate and/or reduce the loss, and that an insurer who receives late notice is denied this opportunity.2 Notice is “prompt” if given “within a reasonable time in view of all the facts and circumstances of the particular case.”3 An insured may not wait until he confirms the cause or extent of loss. Instead, he must notify the insurer as soon he knows of some loss.4 Once an insurer proves late notice, Florida law presumes the insurer was prejudiced and that coverage is forfeited.
The burden shifts to the insured to prove the insurer was not prejudiced.5 “The burden should be on the insured to show lack of prejudice where the insurer has been deprived of the opportunity to investigate the facts and examine the insured.”6
You do not want to find yourself in the position of later having to prove that you provided prompt notice. If your property has sustained damage from Irma, make sure to notify your insurance carrier(s) immediately.
1 Ideal Mut. Ins. Co. v. Waldrep, 400 So. 2d 782, 785 (Fla. 3d DCA 1981), citing Boyd v. Pennsylvania Nat’l Mut. Cas. Ins. Co., 195 So. 2d 259 (Fla. 4th DCA 1967).
2 Waldrep, 400 So.2d at 786.
3 Laster v. United States Fid. & Guar. Co., 293 So. 2d 83, 86 (Fla. 3d DCA 1974).
4 Waldrep, 400 So. 2d at 785
5 Tiedtke v. Fid. & Cas. Co. of New York, 222 So. 2d 206 (Fla. 1969).
6 Bankers Ins. Co. v. Macias, 475 So. 2d 1216, 1218 (Fla. 1985).