Q: Thanks for the information..as a Citizens policyholder currently undergoing a sinkhole claim (filed on 1/3/2011) I absorb all I can about the new bill. Citizens has still not approved or denied my claim. One thing I have not seen addressed in any of the blogs is the 2 year form date of loss timeline to file claims, including supplemental claims. As it can take many months to apparantly 1-2 years to settle a claim, it looks as though a policyholder could be out of time to file for additional damages even before their initial repairs are completed. I would be interested in seeing this topic discussed.

A: Bill 408 has added language to Florida law that states that any claim, including initial, supplemental or re-opened claims is barred unless notice of the claim was given to the insurer within two years of when the homeowner knew, or reasonably should have known, about the sinkhole loss. As with any legislative change to the law, this is rather ambiguous in several ways. The term “reasonable” is one that is plastered all over the laws here in Florida not only for sinkhole claims but in contracts, torts, personal injury and so on. The term reasonable is extremely ambiguous. The arguments we expect to see brought by the carriers will be that any time a homeowner in Florida notices cracks or a window not working or a depression in their yard, that constitutes the time at which they reasonably should have known they had a sinkhole. If they don’t file the claim within two years, the claim will be barred. This is yet another mechanism for carriers to deny claims without even spend the money on testing. In case you haven’t noticed, every aspect of Bill 408 is geared at saving insurance companies money. It is difficult to predict how aggressive carriers will be with this new weapon in their hands but, if I were a betting man, I would bet on them abusing this new weapon.

If you have already filed your claim and the claim is in the investigation phase this portion of the Bill should have little if any impact on you. Once you file a claim, that date is locked in and that policy that was in effect as of that date is usually the only one that matters. The most important date form here for you to recall is that you have five years to file a lawsuit. You never want to blow that date. The two year rule will hold more of an impact to homeowners filing new claims. It is even debatable whether this portion of the statutes can be retroactively applied.

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