There have been many discussions recently regarding Governor Scott’s signing of SB 408 into law on May 17, 2011. The bill changed many important aspects of Florida’s property insurance laws. This post will focus on how SB 408 affects hurricane claims in Florida.

Specifically, SB 408 creates Florida Statute §626.70132, titled Notice of windstorm or hurricane claim, which will become effective June 1, 2011, and reads:

A claim, supplemental claim or reopened claim under an insurance policy that provides property insurance, as defined in s. 624.604, for loss or damage caused by the peril of windstorm or hurricane is barred unless notice of the claim, supplemental claim, or reopened claim was given to the insurer in accordance with the terms of the policy within 3 years after the hurricane first made landfall or the windstorm caused the covered damage. For purposes of this section, the term “supplemental claim” or “reopened claim” means any additional claim for recovery from the insurer for losses from the same hurricane or windstorm which the insurer has previously adjusted pursuant to the initial claim. This section does not affect any applicable limitation on civil actions provided in s. 95.11 for claims, supplemental claims, or reopened claims timely filed under this section.

The provisions of the newly enacted Florida Statute §626.70132 specifically require that policyholders provide their insurers with notice of a claim, supplemental claim or reopened claim for windstorm or hurricane damage within three years of the event. It appears to be in an effort for more concrete reporting requirements, yet questions arise after reviewing the terms of this statutory provision. It creates confusion, despite the Legislature’s efforts at clarification.

That statute’s provisions deal with the timeframe to file a claim, supplemental claim or reopened claim with the insurer and do not address the limitation period to file a civil action against the insurer for breach of the insurance contract related to the hurricane or windstorm event.

Florida Statute §95.11 contains the limitations period for filing a lawsuit related to breach of an insurance contract. It was also amended in SB 408 to specifically require an action for breach of a property insurance contract to be brought within 5 years from the date of loss. It is important to note that while the amendment to §95.11 discussed in the context of hurricane and windstorm claims in this blog, the amendment applies to all property insurance claims. Those involved need to be aware of this important change to the limitations period, which soon will run from the date of loss and should measure the five year period from the loss date accordingly.