Southwestern South Dakota has experienced a series of severe hail storms over the past several months with multiple reports of hail well in excess of 2-inches in diameter. These storms have prompted various questions concerning South Dakota, including time limit considerations that should be considered by policyholders that have been impacted by these hail storms.
South Dakota Codified Laws § 15-2-13 provides a six-year statute of limitations for actions stemming from contractual rights under an insurance policy. While insurance carriers will often attempt to shorten the period of time that a policyholder may bring legal action for underpayment, it is important to understand that the South Dakota legislature and courts have made it clear that an insurance company may not shorten the six-year statute of limitation through policy language.
The South Dakota Supreme Court ruled over forty years ago:
[I]t is the public policy of this state that limitations on actions upon a contract shall be established by the legislature and not by contractual provisions or by the insurance commissioner.1
In that regard, South Dakota Codified Laws § 53-9-6, first enacted in 1887, prohibits an insurance company from shortening the length of time a policyholder has to bring a cause of action:
Every provision in a contract restricting a party from enforcing his rights under it by usual legal proceedings in ordinary tribunals, or limiting his time to do so, is void.
Failure to bring a claim within its prescribed statute of limitations can result in a dismissal and inability to recover benefits. If your property damage claim has been improperly denied or unreasonably delayed, consider speaking with Merlin Law Group to discuss the details of your claim and options available under the law.
1 Leuning v. Dornberger Ins., Inc., 250 N.W.2d 675, 676 (S.D.1977); see also Sheehan v. Morris Irrigation, 410 N.W.2d 569, 570–71 (S.D.1987) (“We believe the proper rule is that the law should set the limitation periods, not private contracts…. A surety can limit the extent of its liability, but not the time for bringing suit.”).