After a storm, damage is oftentimes spotted right away. It is easy to be prompted to file an insurance claim when there’s standing flood water or blown out windows. But what about damage that isn’t immediately visible? Hail damage, for example, may not become apparent until tiny tears in shingles turn into massive roof leaks. While the insured is expected to act in a reasonable timeframe following a date of loss, this expectation may be difficult to honor given the circumstances. Does that mean claims involving delayed visibility of damage are automatically out of luck? Your insurance policy can be a good place to start looking for an answer.
While local laws may offer some guidance, policies may explicitly give you a deadline. These limitations are generally around a year from the date of the incident. With the possible necessity of employing legal counsel should your insurer question the validity of your claim, the deadline to take action in court is two years from the date on the signed proof of loss. Statute of limitations are an integral part of law. Because insurance claims are also subject to the same kinds of bureaucracy, including the legal system itself, your carrier may be inclined to draw a line in the sand somewhere.
Still, even if you meet these deadlines, your insurance provider could still say that you waited too long. There is a general expectation that the insured must make a claim as soon as possible following an incident. For example, even if shingle damage after a hailstorm appeared minimal, your insurer may still have expected you to file a claim. Your failure to do so could leave your insurer thinking that your now-mammoth leak may have been affected by other lurking variables, such as aging shingles or your negligence as a homeowner. Perhaps the leak could have been prevented in the first place with the proper attention. Additionally, the assumption that your policy even has a hard-and-fast, judicially-enforceable deadline can be overly-optimistic. Vague wording describing the required time to act as simply being “prompt” may require the facts of your case to be considered. Regardless of what your policy says or doesn’t say, having the specifics scrutinized by an attorney can make all the difference in the success of your claim.
Whenever a claim appears to be at the mercy of the specific facts of your case and what your insurer is alleging, an attorney can help you utilize the resources that can uncover a more definitive truth. Returning to the roof example, if there was hail damage that may not have been overt to a homeowner on the ground level, an inspection from a reputable roofing contractor can be exactly what your claim needs. Roofing experts can write a report pinpointing the nature, age, and rate of damage. This information can be presented in court. If there was no way of you reasonably knowing that making a claim was necessary, then your delay in making one until more substantive damage presented itself is justified. Thus, your insurer owes you the funds guaranteed in your policy.