Most policyholders misunderstand how long you have to file a claim and how long you have to file a lawsuit against your insurance company. The two can be very different and the first can affect the second.
Within your insurance policy there is a section called the “Duties After Loss Section”. The Duties After Loss are your requirements or what your insurance company expects of you when a loss occurs. In this section there should be a time frame or a general time frame in which you need to file a claim. Almost always this states something to the effect “Provide prompt (or immediate) notice when a loss occurs“.
What does this mean exactly?
This means that when you know a loss has occurred or reasonably should have known when a loss has occurred, and you plan to file a claim, then do so without delay. Without delay means at the next opportunity such as the same day or very next day. Not two weeks, a month, or a year later. And unless you have a very good reason for not filing promptly, your claim likely will be denied if your insurance company deems that their right to inspect and properly document the damages have been affected.
Of course there are reasons that a property owner may not be able to file a claim right away. Possibly they were out of town, hospitalized, or had some other emergency. As long as there haven’t been significant changes to the property so that the adjuster can view the damages as they were the day of the loss, then there shouldn’t be any issues. However, if repairs have been made and the insurance company cannot properly inspect, then likely the claim will be denied.
More people then you can imagine choose reasons to delay reporting a claim which are not valid reasons and run into issues with their insurance company. Maybe a homeowner wants to see what the outcome of their neighbors claim is going to be when there is storm damage to the community. They don’t want to file a claim if they think they will just be denied or they won’t get enough. But this isn’t a valid reason. Not every insurance company is the same and not every home has equal damages.
Some property owners believe that they have up to one year to file a claim. While this happens often, it is technically not the case. Policies have a condition contained within called the “Suit Against Us” section. In most policies this provides a statute of limitations of one year for a homeowner and two years for a commercial property owner to file a lawsuit against their insurance company. Some people interpret this as how long they have to file a claim. This section is not referencing the length of time to file a claim. In fact, within this section it often states that an insured must first comply with all of the conditions in the policy in order to file a lawsuit. One of those conditions is to file their claim promptly or without delay. Failing to do so could effect their ability to successfully sue their insurance.
Filing a claim in a timely manner is always a good idea. The policyholder fulfills one of the conditions in the policy in the Duties After Loss Section, allows the insurance company to promptly inspect the damages making a quicker coverage determination, and generally allows for a faster claim resolution and prompter settlement.