David Adelstein | Florida Construction Legal Updates
I have discussed this before in prior postings, but it is worth repeating. It is imperative for an insured to comply with post loss obligations in a property insurance policy. Not doing so gives the insurer the argument that its insured forfeited coverage under the policy. Naturally, this is never what an insured wants as this is contrary to submitting an insurance claim to begin with. To avoid this situation, an insured should consult with counsel and read the policy including endorsements issued to the policy to be sure that post loss obligations are complied with and, if they are not, there is a basis supported by case law.
In a recent case, Goldberg v. Universal Property and Casualty Ins. Co., 45 Fla. L. Weekly D2118b (Fla. 4th DCA 2020), the property insurance policy for hurricanes and windstorms contained the following through an endorsement issued to the policy:
You must give notice of a claim, a supplemental claim, or reopened claim for loss or damage caused by the peril of windstorm or hurricane, with us in accordance with the terms of this policy and within three years after the hurricane first made landfall or the windstorm caused the covered damage. For purposes of this Section, the term “supplemental claim” or “reopened claim” means any additional claim for recovery from us for losses from the same hurricane or windstorm which we have previously adjusted pursuant to the initial claim. . . .
The insured submitted a claim for hurricane damage. The insurer sent an adjuster that adjusted the loss at $12,960.80, and after depreciation, reflected an actual cash value of $9,158.43. The insurer paid the insured $8,158.43 after deducting the insured’s deductible. The insurer also notified the insured that the policy did include a replacement cost value and once the work was performed and costs verified it will evaluate for eligibility for payment of the depreciation.
Later, the insured notified the insurer he received an estimate for higher than the proceeds received. The insurer asked the insured to forward the estimate but the insured did not do so. The insured then filed a lawsuit against the insurer. However, prior to filing a lawsuit the insured did not submit a supplemental claim to the insurer. An issue was whether the insured failed to satisfy post loss obligations in the policy by not submitting a supplemental claim prior to filing suit.
The Fourth District Court of Appeal held that the insured did NOT comply with his post loss obligations because he did not submit a supplemental claim to the insurer for damages he sought in excess of what the insurer paid:
Here, the record shows that [the property insurer] “previously adjusted” [the insured’s] initial claim after he filed the Property Loss Notice in September 2017, and then promptly paid $8,158.43 on that claim. After [the property insurer] had “previously adjusted” the initial claim, any request by [the insured] for additional payment for losses from the same hurricane fell within the meaning of an “additional claim for recovery . . . for losses from the same hurricane” which [the property insurer] had “previously adjusted.” Thus, under the terms of the policy, [the insured] was required to notify [the property insurer] that he claimed further damages from Hurricane Irma.
The point is that had the insured simply provided a supplemental claim per his policy, even estimates he received for the remedial work, the end result would likely have been different because he would have satisfied a post loss obligation. This is important because his claim was clearly covered as the insurer would not have paid proceeds based off its adjustment if it did not believe the claim was a covered claim. But, by not complying with the terms of the policy, the insured was deprived of additional amounts relative to the loss.