During the 2011 Florida Legislative Session there were many changes to the laws related to property insurance. Specifically, SB 408 was passed into law which makes numerous and substantial changes to residential property insurance. This blog will focus on the changes seen to the time limits and statute of limitations so that the policyholder can ensure that time is not running out on their ability to bring a claim under their insurance policy.
The bill, which has now become law, places time limits for bringing a hurricane or sinkhole claim and also creates a statute of limitations for brining a breach of contract property insurance action in court. The bill established that a claim, supplemental claim, or reopened windstorm or hurricane claim must be given to the insurer (insurance company) within three (3) years after the hurricane first makes landfall or the windstorm causes covered damage.
Regarding a sinkhole claim, the law now dictates that an initial, supplemental or reopened sinkhole claim must be given to the insurer within two (2) years after the policyholder knows or reasonably should have known about the sinkhole loss. It is important to note that neither the bill nor the law defines or elaborates on how the policyholder knew or how the policyholder should have reasonably known that their property was experiencing damage related to sinkhole activity. This ambiguity is surely an issue that will play out in the courts, as insurance companies will exploit the two year filing deadline in order to deny claims.
Additionally, the bill enacted a five (5) year statute of limitations for bringing an action for the breach of a property insurance contract. The statute of limitations runs from the date of loss to the date the lawsuit is filed. Thus it is important for policyholders to know that in the event they have a disputed sinkhole claim they must bring their lawsuit (breach of contract claim) within five years of the date of loss. Given that a date of loss may precede the date of actually filing the claim by a year or more it is very important that the policyholder not allow time to run out.
Because SB 408 made substantive changes to related to property insurance, especially in the area of sinkhole claims, it is always recommended that the policyholder contact a Florida sinkhole attorney in order to ensure their rights are protected.