In order to control potential claims costs, insurers rely on their states' statute of limitations. This prevents claims from occurring many years after a loss takes place, so insurers do not have to face the possibility of collecting premiums today for a claim that will not occur for 20 years or more. California residents should be aware of the state's statutes so they don't miss the opportunity to file a claim.
Statute of Limitations
States generally have several statutes of limitation. These laws dictate the amount of time residents have to take certain legal actions. Often, states have different statutes for property claims than for injury claims, and different statutes still for lawsuits arising from claim-related losses. It's important to know which statute applies to your situation so you don't think you have more time to take action than you actually do because once the statute passes, you forfeit your rights.
California Property Damage
Generally, Californians have up to three years to file a claim for property damage, but only one year for injuries. Despite this length of time, it is important to report damage to your insurer as soon as possible, so the damage can be properly recorded. The chances of an unsatisfactory settlement increase the longer you wait to file your claim because evidence of the loss may disappear. You cannot file a property damage claim if you wait more than three years.
Beginning of Statute Calculation
Although a lawyer may be able to argue otherwise to a court, the statute of limitations generally begins on the date of the loss. Therefore, you have three years from the date of your house fire to file a claim with your insurer. This can be important to property owners who own multiple homes and may not be immediately aware of the loss. The statute does not begin on the date of your discovery, but rather the date of the loss itself.
Even after you file a claim, your insurer may limit the amount of time you have to complete your claim. In other words, the insurer may set a date past which if you do not cooperate fully, your claim can be denied. These statutes are often at the discretion of the insurance company, though some state laws may exist to help govern them. For example, California Insurance Code Section 2070 Article 3 requires property insurers to notify certain claimants of approaching statutes of limitation at least 30 days in advance of the statute's expiration date, or else extend the statute by 30 days beyond the date of the letter.
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