Everyone has heard the term statute of limitations before. But…do you know what it means? And do you know what it could do to your case?
Did you know that your insurance company can change the statute of limitations as defined by the law in your state?
At Wheeler, DiUlio, & Barnabei, our job is to make sure you’re prepared and protected when it comes to dealing with your insurance company.
We have some very helpful information regarding the statute of limitations on your insurance claim as well as some handy advice to follow as you proceed with the filing process.
What Is A Statute Of Limitations?
Let’s start by defining the term. A statute of limitations is the time frame within which you have to initiate legal proceedings. Sounds pretty basic, right?
Statutes of limitations vary depending on your case. Some cases may allow for up to a decade before you file your claim…others require a near-immediate filing.
It’s easy to work out what the statute of limitations on your property damage claim might be (in Pennsylvania, it’s almost always one year). However, your insurance company knows how to manipulate these statutes through language in your policy. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you may completely miss that language.
How Can My Insurance Company Change The Law?
Here’s an example – a pipe breaks on the second floor of your home and causes water damage throughout your entire house.
You’re insured by one of the largest insurance companies, since you’ve seen those commercials on TV and feel like you’ve found someone who’ll be ‘on your side.’ It’s time to finally seek the help you’ve been paying them to provide.
One call to your insurance company, and they eventually send someone out to inspect your property. Their assessment determines that you’re due $1,500 for your damages. After they subtract the $1,000 deductible, you’re left with only $500.
This entire process has taken up almost a year and definitely wasn’t worth it. Your next step is to turn to your lawyer. From one conversation, they’re able to determine that your damages are actually worth $75,000, and they request a copy of your insurance claim.
After careful examination, your lawyer reviews your claim and policy and finds that the insurance company has inserted language in your contract stating that “all legal claims must be brought within one year of the date of loss.” You missed the deadline. Case over.
Can They Really Do That?
Unfortunately, they can. It doesn’t matter what the law states…as soon as you enter into a legal agreement by signing a written contract, you are bound by its terms. As long as they are not blatantly unreasonable, they can do it.
Insurance companies bank on your trust in them when they add language like this. They assume that you’ll rely on them to provide you with the best possible outcome, to give you every last penny needed to restore your home after it has suffered damages.
What they don’t bank on is that you might make an attorney the first person you speak with, before you even make a call to your insurance company.
How Do I Know If My Insurance Company Has Done This To Me?
Here’s an astonishing fact: just about every homeowner’s policy issued in Pennsylvania has a one-year suit limitation clause. That means that the odds are high that you’re stuck with this language in your own policy.
You may be thinking, “That’s way too short! There’s no way that one year can’t be considered ‘unreasonable!’ What does the Court have to say about this?”
Turns out, the Court takes the side of the insurance company on this matter.
“What if the insurance company took almost a year to deny the claim?” The claim must be filed within one year from the date the damage happened.
“What if I didn’t discover the damage until 2 months after it happened?” You have one year from the date the damage happened to file. Period, end of story.
To make our lives even more exciting, these contractually imposed suit limitations are different depending on your state. In New Jersey, for example, the suit limitation clause is put on pause as long as the claim is being actively worked on by the insurance company. However, if the homeowner doesn’t report the claim for two months, then the insurance company investigates, the homeowner will only have ten months to file the claim.
What Can I Do To Protect Myself?
It’s easy. Contact Wheeler, DiUlio, & Barnabei. We’ll take a look at your policy free of charge and let you know what steps you need to take before contacting your insurance company.
The sooner you connect with us, the better. The best course of action is to send us your policy today, before you’re even faced with damages that need to be covered. We can help you protect yourself for future instances where you may have to deal with your insurance company.
Contact us before it’s too late. Click here to speak with an attorney at Wheeler, DiUlio, & Barnabei.