There are a lot of reasons why people wait to file insurance claims for property damage. Whether you are a homeowner, apartment dweller, or business owner, you may be tempted to wait to file a claim or call your insurance company because you are:
- Worried about how it will affect your insurance rates
- Wonder if it might be cheaper to do some of the repairs yourself
- Confused about who is responsible for filing an insurance claim
- Don’t understand your policy or the claims process
However, don’t wait too long. Policyholders of all kinds are held to a number of important time limits in the course of resolving a claim, and missing these deadlines could seriously complicate your claim.
What Are the Time Limits for Filing an Insurance Claim for Property Damage?
If you are looking for a simple answer about time limits, you are likely to be disappointed. Unfortunately, answers about time limits can be surprisingly complicated. There are state laws that can affect how long you have to file a claim, but the actual deadlines you are held to often have less to do with state law and more to do with what’s stated in your policy. On most of these questions, the answer is right there in your policy. However, there are a number of other considerations that may also affect how long you have to take action.
Don’t Be Fooled: Multiple Strict Deadlines Typically Apply
Many people believe that there’s only one hard deadline to be concerned about. For example, they see that their policies allow one year to file, and they end up completely ignoring other crucial deadlines involved in resolving a claim. You need to understand that there isn’t just a single time limit that you need to know about when you’ve been affected by a storm or disaster. For most policyholders, there are several deadlines that are important, including deadlines for:
- Notifying your insurance company of a loss. While most insurance policies state that you must notify the company promptly of a loss, what counts as “prompt” may be a little vague. However, you can wreck your claim by reporting a loss so late that it “prejudices” the insurance company. For the most part, you should take steps to notify your insurance company as soon as possible after you become aware of a loss. There are some situations and circumstances where a delay can be forgiven, but you will need to have a very good reason for why you waited.
- Submitting documentation. The claims process for storm- or disaster-related losses involve numerous deadlines for filing documentation, such as estimates and loss lists. Make sure you understand when you must submit certain forms and information as your claim is adjusted.
- Disputing a claim or getting legal help. If you are overwhelmed or running into trouble resolving your claim, it’s even more important that you take action as soon as possible and find out about the deadlines that apply. It can take time to prepare the information you need to take further action.
Additionally, you need to be ready to mitigate further losses as you wait for a response from the insurance company. Although you should avoid making full repairs until everything has been properly documented, you are also responsible for doing what you can to prevent further losses. It may be necessary to make temporary repairs to avoid additional damage to your property.
Does it Matter What Kind of Storm or Disaster Caused My Property Damage?
For wind, hail, hurricanes, tornados, fires, and many other disasters, the deadlines under your policy will be similar. Typically, homeowners have one year to file a claim, but this can vary significantly. In some states, you may have two years—or even up to six years—to file a claim. This is why it’s so important to find out which deadlines apply to your specific situation. However, aside from the variances between state laws and policy terms, there are also some disasters and perils that don’t follow the same kind of pattern. For example, floods are handled completely differently since they are through FEMA. Other specific loss insurance may also have different rules, depending on the policy you carry.
Don’t Take “No” for an Answer Without Investigating Your Rights
What happens if you miss a deadline? Many policyholders are unaware of their rights and believe that they are out of luck if they have missed a deadline. If you’re worried, keep in mind that an insurance company can’t generally refuse to pay your claim just because you missed a deadline or made a mistake filling out a form. To completely deny your claim for these kinds of filing issues, the insurance company has to show that your mistake caused the company harm or prevented it from investigating your claim in an adequate fashion.
Reopening and Adding to Existing Property Damage Claims
You should also know that it may be possible to add to a claim of loss or even reopen a claim that has been closed, which may involve an additional set of time limits. If you discover new losses or overlook a loss in your initial communication with the insurance company, you are typically able to add these additional losses within a certain amount of time.
You may also be able to reopen a claim that has been closed if you believe the claim was unfairly denied or underpaid. The limits on doing so can range from one to five years, depending on your policy. If you are at all in doubt about a claim, don’t be afraid to seek help.
Are You Having Trouble Understanding Your Rights as a Policyholder? Are You Still Confused About Time Limits for Your Claim?
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call your insurance company and ask. You should be able to find out about important deadlines, what your responsibilities are, and how long it might take to resolve your claim. If you are still unsure about the time limits that apply in your situation after reaching out to your insurance company, or if you are having any kind of trouble resolving a property damage claim, don’t hesitate to reach out to our law firm today at 1-888-614-7730. The experienced attorneys with the Voss Law Firm have helped homeowners, businesses, and municipalities fight unfairly delayed or denied claims, and we would be happy to help you get the answers you need.