Do I Have to File My Claim by a Certain Deadline?

Claim filing deadlines is an often asked question, and poorly understood area in homeowner insurance policies.

Most insurance policies do not specify a deadline for filing a new claim under your policy. So technically, you can file a claim for a covered peril at any time after the peril occurs. Certainly, your insurance carrier will never deny you the right to file a new claim.

Even if there are no written deadlines in the terms of your policy, however, filing deadlines are a real thing in practice.

This results from an inherent conflict between your stated policy terms and your contractual obligation to the insurance carrier as a policyholder.

 

You are contractually obligated, as a policyholder, to fulfill two (2) pertinent responsibilities (among a list of 10 responsibilities):

1) Give the insurance carrier prompt notice of the loss or damage
2) Take all reasonable steps to protect the Covered Property from further damage

If you fail to do so, you can be held liable for a breach of your contract with the insurance carrier under the terms of your policy.

 

So what constitutes “prompt notice?” No one has ever definitively quantified the answer, either with a fixed deadline or a timeframe written down as part of the policy. But there are countless of examples of court cases where insurance carriers have denied or otherwise limited coverage due to the “untimely” filing of claims on behalf of policyholders.

What has evolved related to claim filing deadlines, instead, is a body of administrative policies which, while not directly outlined in your policy language, nonetheless govern the way that most carriers approach timelines for filing of new claims after a named covered peril event.

The general consensus? 12 months. If you wait longer than a year, you run the risk of all kinds of unnecessary complications in your claims process. Certainly, the burden of proof shifts back to you as the policyholder to justify how anything longer than a year can and should still be consider timely. You also inherit the responsibility of distinguishing what damage is fresh–ie, attributable to the covered peril, and what can be excluded from your claim as “pre-existing” damage.

“Even if there are no written deadlines in the terms of your policy, however, filing deadlines are a real thing in practice.”

What has evolved related to claim filing deadlines, instead, is a body of administrative policies which, while not directly outlined in your policy language, nonetheless govern the way that most carriers approach timelines for filing of new claims after a named covered peril event.

The general consensus? 12 months. If you wait longer than a year, you run the risk of all kinds of unnecessary complications in your claims process. Certainly, the burden of proof shifts back to you as the policyholder to justify how anything longer than a year can and should still be consider timely. You also inherit the responsibility of distinguishing what damage is fresh–ie, attributable to the covered peril, and what can be excluded from your claim as “pre-existing” damage.

So do not delay! Have a certified property inspector come and conduct an analysis for you today. The inspection should cover not only your roof, but your your home systems that may have been affected.

At Cenco Building Services, we deploy licensed, independent insurance adjusters to conduct all of our field inspections, to better protect your interests should covered peril damage have to be documented.