Imagine you file a claim for damage to your property through homeowner’s insurance. While the claim is being adjusted by the carrier, you wonder, how long does the insurance company have to make a coverage decision in Florida?
In this blog post, let’s answer this question by dividing it into two parts:
- The amount of time the carrier has to investigate your homeowner’s claim; and
- The amount of time a carrier has to settle (meaning pay) your claim
1. How long does a homeowner’s insurance company have to investigate a claim in Florida?
Under Florida Law, once a claim is filed with a homeowner’s insurance company, the carrier–barring any unusual circumstances–has ninety (90) days to make a coverage decision. The 90-day time period starts the second you file the claim. This is why Craig-the-Lawyer always tells homeowners to file the claim immediately after discovering a loss.
Here is the exact language codified in Florida Statute, 627.70131 (“Insurer’s duty to acknowledge communications regarding claims; investigation):
Within 90 days after an insurer receives notice of an initial, reopened, or supplemental property insurance claim from a policyholder, the insurer shall pay or deny such claim or a portion of the claim unless the failure to pay is caused by factors beyond the control of the insurer which reasonably prevent such payment.
Sometimes the carrier will attempt to extend the 90-day period by requesting additional documentation on the 89th day (no I am not making this up), such as additional records, sworn proof of loss, photos, estimates, etc.
2. How long does an Insurance Company Have to Settle a Homeowner’s Insurance Claim?
It depends. How long an insurance company has to settle a homeowner’s insurance claim once it is denied or underpaid depends on a variety of factors. Here are some:
- The amount of damages requested by the homeowner. Generally speaking, the more money a homeowner demands as part of its claim, the more likely the carrier will delay and fight the claim. Think about it: If you had to cut someone a check for six figures, wouldn’t you want them to work for it? This is the game that insurance companies play.
- The type of loss. The more deadly a disaster, the more likely the case will settle sooner rather than later—though not always. Hurricane Michael claims, for the most part, settled pretty quickly once a suit was filed. Why? Because it was a category 5 hurricane. There is no category 6.
- The specific carrier. When I accept a case and file a lawsuit the most pertinent information is who is the insurance carrier? I can usually predict how long a case will take based on the carrier. If you have a claim with Citizens, Castle Key (aka All-State), or Universal, the case will take at least a year to resolve; if I am suing AAA or Florida Farm Bureau, I predict that the case will resolve quickly.
The general rule I tell clients regarding the amount of time an insurance company takes to settle a claim once a lawsuit is filed is:
- 33 percent of the cases settle within the first three months of litigation;
- 33 percent settle within the first six months; and
- 33 percent—which we call the unlucky ones—last longer than 9 months.