A very favorable case for Plaintiff’s who’s homeowner’s insurance claims were denied, delayed or underpaid has come out of the 5th DCA recently. The February 23, 2018 appellate decision, Hicks v. American Integrity Insurance Company of Florida decision provides an insurance policy which excludes coverage for losses caused by constant or repeated leakage or seepage over a period of fourteen days or more does not exclude losses caused by leakage or seepage over a period of thirteen days or less.
Typically, a homeowner’s insurance policy excludes coverage for water damage which continued to occur for over fourteen days. In effect, this exclusion requires a claim for damages to be reported by the insured (i.e. the homeowner) within 14-days of the date of loss. This fourteen day period is entirely arbitrary, but is widely accepted in the homeowner’s insurance industry. It often presents serious problems for homeowner’s who have very serious claims. For example, in a situation where damage was caused by a severe storm, such as a hurricane or tornado, the homeowner might be away from their home for a period longer than fourteen days to wither the storm. Then, upon their return, they might discover that a loss occurred. If they report it later than the required 14-days, the claim might be denied because the damage by then will be considered “constant and repeated leakage and seepage.”
The Hicks decision indicates that even if the claim is reported after the fourteen day period, that does not give the homeowner’s insurance company the right to deny coverage for the damage which occurred in those initial thirteen days. This puts the onus on the homeowner’s insurance company to investigate and make a determination which damage occurred within the first thirteen days, and which occurred after.
This decision is sure to make it that-much easier for homeowner’s with water damage claims to recover against their homeowner’s insurance companies, if they were initially denied, underpaid, or delayed in their claim determination.
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