The Florida Third District Court of Appeal recently found that when a policyholder failed to substantially comply with a post-loss obligation, the insurance company is presumed to have been prejudiced by the breach.1 The burden then shifts to the policyholder to show that the failure to comply with a post-loss obligation did not prejudice the insurance company. The question remains: What have courts found to satisfy a policyholder’s burden of showing that reporting a claim late did not prejudice the insurance company?
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Policy language varies when it comes to how and when an insured is required to give notice of a claim. Some policies have a definitive time frame setting forth when notice must be given, but others use terms such as “prompt,” “immediate” or “as soon as practicable.” When the policy does not provide a definitive timeframe, the question of whether an insured’s notice complied with the policy’s notice requirement can be questioned. In such situations, courts will look to various factors to determine whether the insured’s notice was “reasonable.”
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As any contributor on this blog will tell you, the first step in assessing any claim is to read the Policy. Policy language is ever evolving and changing, especially when it comes to notice requirements. The purpose of a notice requirement in an insurance policy is to enable the insurer to make a timely and thorough investigation.1 Many policies however contain language which provides that notice is to be provided “as soon as practicable,” “promptly,” “immediately” or “within a reasonable time.”
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Colorado policyholders should be mindful to review their insurance policies for time limit considerations that may bar them from pursuing insurance benefits beyond two years after the May 8, 2017, hailstorm. While Colorado requires that any action against an insurance company for failure to pay covered benefits must be brought within three years of the date of loss, Colorado allows insurance companies to contractually reduce this time period to as little as six months in commercial and business owner policies of insurance. Failing to bring an action within this prescribed period can ultimately lead to the inability to seek legal recourse where an insurance company is failing to pay covered benefits.
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Many of us in Central Colorado remember the hail storm that wreaked havoc on the Denver metro area in May 2017. What happens when hailstorm damage to your property does not manifest itself for a period of months, or even a year later? Should a claim be denied for being reported once discovered? Unfortunately, the standard surrounding late notice continues to be unclear in the Colorado courts today.
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When homeowners discover a plumbing issue in their home, there are usually several things running through their minds: investigating the source of the leak, stopping and fixing the problem, and drying as much of the water as possible. One thing that can be easily overlooked, especially by insureds who have never experienced a plumbing leak before, is to report the loss to your property insurance carrier. If you fail to do so, you might find yourself hearing two words dreaded in the insurance industry: late notice.
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Most property insurance policies require that the insured must provide “prompt” notice of a loss as soon as possible after a covered loss. While many states throughout the country have adopted the Notice-Prejudice Rule which prevents an insurer from denying a claim unless it can demonstrate actual prejudice resulting from the delayed notice of loss, the District Court of Colorado recently issued an opinion rejecting this majority rule in first-party insurance contracts and instead applying the Traditional Notice Rule:
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