Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Insurance policies can provide crucial assistance to corporate policyholders. Still, disputes between insurer and insured occasionally occur. Policyholders can take a few simple steps before a claim is filed to put themselves in the best possible position if a coverage issue arises.

      Read the Policy

Corporate policyholders should always take the time to read their insurance policy and be aware of its provisions, limitations, and requirements. Ideally, the insured should complete this task shortly after the policy is issued.

Insurance policies contain the terms and conditions that will govern the relationship between the insurer and the insured. Without having read the policy, compliance with its terms may be almost impossible, creating potential pitfalls during the claims process. Additionally, without knowledge of the scope of coverage obtained during a thorough reading, the insured may also misunderstand what event triggers coverage (i.e. the “triggering event”) and its corresponding obligations under the policy, causing problems with the ability to carry out step #2.  

Pay Attention to Notice Timing Requirements

Policyholders should be aware of the policy’s notice timing requirements to ease compliance when a claim surfaces. Many policies require insureds to notify the insurance company when a triggering event implicates coverage, many times within a specific period (e.g. notice must be submitted 10 days from the filing of a lawsuit against the insured). Notice compliance with a period specified in the policy is taken seriously under Texas law. Conversely, other policies may simply state that notice must be given “as soon as practicable,” a phrase that has generally proved to be more policyholder-friendly in the Texas courts. 

Nevertheless, it’s wise to err on the side of timeliness. If timely notice isn’t given, the insurer may have grounds to deny the claim before the insured presents its substantive coverage arguments. 

Be Aware of All Other Notice Obligations

All insurance policies contain a provision that includes specific notice instructions, in addition to a timing requirement.  For instance, a policy may require written notice, mailed to a specific address.  Some policies may allow effective notice via email or even a phone call. Whatever the terms related to the method of notice may be, follow them.

In addition to giving notice in a particular way, the provision may also state that certain documents must accompany notice or could include other instructions the insured must follow. For example, most policies that provide coverage for lawsuits filed against the insured require that a copy of the lawsuit complaint or petition accompany the notice given. Once again, the insured should comply with those terms.

By putting in a little legwork upfront, policyholders can vastly improve their chances of avoiding unnecessary coverage disputes.  

Amy Stewart Law exclusively represents business policyholders at every step of the insurance process, from risk assessment, purchase, and renewal, all the way to claims, mediation, and litigation. Our lawyers and paralegals are experienced in insurance law, including many prior years spent working on behalf of insurance companies, so we know the system and speak the language, fluently. Contact us if we can be of assistance.

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