There are deadlines and time limits in insurance policies that can cut off your benefits and your legal rights. Review your policy. It’s very common after a loss for people to need extensions of some or all of these deadlines. The most common time limits apply to: Filing a lawsuit against the insurer, benefits for temporary living expenses and collecting full value (above actual cash value) after property has been repaired or replaced.
1) Lawsuit deadlines: Most policies have “Suit Against Us” wording that sets a deadline for you to file a lawsuit against the insurance company over a claim decision, settlement offer or other problem. The typical limit is 12 or 24 months after the date of the loss. Here are examples of wording you may find in your policy:
No suit or action may be brought against us unless there has been full compliance with all policy terms. Any suit or action must be brought within one year after the inception of loss or damage.
No action can be brought against us unless there has been full compliance with the policy provisions. Any action must be started within one year after the date of loss or damage.
Ohio courts typically enforce these rules strictly As soon as a loss occurs, the lawsuit clock is ticking, even while a company adjuster investigates the claim or is slow in responding to you. People often think the one-year starts to run when the claim is denied. This is wrong. In Ohio the one year starts on the date of loss. So if your insurance company takes ten months to investigate then deny your claim, you only have two months to find a lawyer and file a lawsuit. This is not a lot of time.
There are situations where a court will not strictly enforce a suit-filing deadline, such as when the company has promised to pay a claim but failed to do so before the suit-filing deadline expires. In this situation, the court may decide that the company “waived” (gave up) its right to enforce the suit-filing deadline. But if your claim has not settled and a suit deadline is coming up, the safest action is to consult with a qualified attorney and either:
- File a lawsuit before the expiration of the suit-filing deadline, or;
- Get written confirmation from the insurance company that it agrees your claim is still open and that you need not file suit. (See UP Sample Letter Protecting Your Legal Rights)
2) Time limits on benefits: Some policies terminate your ALE (Additional Living Expense)/Loss of Use benefits after one year.
3) Property repair and replacement deadlines: Many policies require you to repair or replace property within a certain number of days after a loss in order to recover full replacement value (above actual cash value). 180 days is common.
Your insurance company can extend deadlines in your policy, but generally they won’t volunteer to do so…you must ask in writing and give a valid reason. The simplest way of getting your insurance company to extend a policy deadline is to make a clear request along with a good reason why you need the extension. Try to make your request at least a month before the deadline. Put your request in writing and ask the insurer to respond within a specific period of time. If they say no, seek help from a government official or a claim help professional. Unless you’ve got written confirmation of an extension from someone knowledgeable and authorized, you should assume all policy deadlines apply and are firm.
UP thanks and acknowledges Cleveland, Ohio attorney Bob Rutter with Rutter & Russin for assistance in drafting this publication.
Other UP Help Resources on this topic: