On June 11, 2021, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 76 into law, creating Florida Statute (F.S.) §627.70152. Insurance corporations hailed the passage of the law as a long-awaited victory for an industry plagued by frivolous and fraudulent lawsuits. But despite the new law’s alleged goal of reducing unnecessary litigation, critics maintain that its provisions are blatantly anti-consumer and anti-policyholder.
Among the most significant changes brought by the new legislation is the requirement for a “Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation,” which forces policyholders to follow strict administrative procedures before they can sue insurers for nonpayment. These new requirements might not sound too demanding at first blush, but if you own damaged property in Florida, you’ll want to understand them thoroughly. A misstep could derail your case and leave you with little to no opportunity for a fair recovery.
There’s no need for you to identify or manage the implications of Florida’s new legal requirements alone. If you are considering a lawsuit because a Florida insurance provider has refused to pay for damage to your insured property, get in touch with a property damage attorney today. They can help you understand the requirements surrounding your Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation and support you every step of the way as you demand full compensation.
To learn more about how the new law could impact your insurance claim and what a Florida property damage lawyer can do to help, continue reading or contact a lawyer for an initial case review.
What Is a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation?
A Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation is an official declaration informing some other party that you plan to file a lawsuit. Under the new F.S. §627.70152, you must file a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation anytime you wish to sue an insurance provider for violating the terms of a residential or commercial insurance policy. You might want to sue a provider if they failed to pay for an insured event or if they paid less money than the policy provisions require.
How Do I File a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation in Florida?
F.S. §627.70152 specifies that you must file your Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation with Florida’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), who must pass on the Notice to your insurance provider. You can initiate your Notice online by creating an account on the CFO’s website, signing in, and selecting “Create Notice.”
Once you have filled out all required fields, you can upload and attach documents you must include with your Notice. After that, click “Submit” to file it. On the next screen, you will receive a unique Notice number for your case and have the option to download a copy of the Notice.
Remember that the details you include in your Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation will become a matter of public record the moment you file. Be sure to leave out Social Security Numbers, personal financial data, and other sensitive information.
What Are the Requirements for a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation?
F.S. § 627.70152 imposes several particular requirements on property owners who wish to file a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation.
To be valid, your Notice must expressly state the following information:
- That you have prepared the Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation pursuant to the requirements outlined in F.S. § 627.70152
- The insurance provider’s specific acts or omissions that serve as your lawsuit’s grounds, including unreasonable claim denials or delays
- If an attorney or other agent prepares the Notice on your behalf, that they provided you, the claimant, with a copy of the Notice
- If an attorney represents you, the attorney fees amount requested
- If you file the Notice after a denial of your property damage claim, the estimated loss value you have incurred, if known
- If you file the Notice after any act or omission other than a claim denial, your original demand value, an itemized losses list, and the disputed amount
Once you file a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation, you must give the insurance provider time to respond. The new law requires you to wait at least ten business days after submitting the Notice to file a lawsuit for them to respond.
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Does My Insurance Company Have to Respond to the Notice?
Yes. Insurance providers must respond anytime a policyholder files a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation in Florida. However, the specific requirements that apply to your provider can vary depending on what happened with your property damage claim before you submitted the Notice.
If you intend to sue because the insurance company denied your claim, your insurance carrier must respond to your Notice, in writing, within ten business days of receipt. In its response, the insurance company must explicitly state whether it intends to re-inspect the property damage, accept your claim, or continue to deny the claim. If the insurance company wants to re-inspect the property, it must conduct the property reinspection within 14 days of its request. Some providers may revisit claim denials and offer reasonable settlements following these reconsideration efforts.
If the insured company covered your claim and you filed a Notice because you intend to sue for another act or omission, your provider still needs to give you a written response within ten business days. In its response, your provider must either make a new settlement offer, require you to participate in a new property damage appraisal process, or engage in some alternative dispute resolution method.
Does the New Law Affect Payment of Attorney’s Fees?
Yes. Normally, when you file a lawsuit seeking compensation from another party, you have the right to include your legal fee costs as part of your claim. After all, if the other party had behaved differently, chances are you would never have had to sue in the first place. If you win your case, the other party is responsible for paying the compensation you initially sought and your incurred lawsuit costs.
Under the new law, however, property owners must meet certain thresholds to obtain this additional compensation for attorney’s fees. Determining the difference between the insurance company’s offer and the property owner’s demand is the first step in calculating the thresholds. This difference is the disputed amount. Once they determine the disputed amount, the thresholds further depend upon the percentage of the disputed amount you ultimately recovered.
The insurance company must pay all your legal fees if you win your lawsuit and recover at least 50 percent of the total disputed amount. If you win and recover more than 20 percent but less than 50 percent of the disputed amount, the insurance company only pays for that same percentage of your legal fees. But if you win and recover less than 20 percent of the disputed amount, you are not entitled to compensation for your legal fees.
Remember that you cannot recover compensation for attorney’s fees if the court dismisses your lawsuit for failure to provide your Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation.
Does the Law Affect the Time Limit for Property Damage Lawsuits?
Yes. Under §95.11 of the Florida Statutes, you typically have four years to file a property damage lawsuit, including any lawsuit based on:
- Property damage resulting from the planning or construction of “real property,” which includes your land and the buildings and other improvements on it
- Property damage due to the “taking, detaining, or injuring” of personal property
- Property damage resulting from negligence, meaning another party’s careless or reckless behavior harmed your property
- Any other property damage due to actions not explicitly referenced in the law
The four-year window typically begins on the date when your property was first damaged. If the deadline passes and you attempt to file a lawsuit anyway, the insurance company will most likely point out this fact to the court, and the judge will probably dismiss your lawsuit. However, certain factors can pause or “toll” the statute of limitations, giving you more case preparation and filing time.
Under the new law, tolling the statute of limitations for your property damage lawsuit for 30 days is possible when:
- You and the insurance company cannot resolve the claim during the mandatory 10- to 24-day pre-lawsuit notice period
- The time limit for your case runs out within 30 days of the compulsory pre-lawsuit notice period’s termination.
A recent decision from the Florida Supreme Court indicates that the tolling of the statute of limitations deadline begins as soon as you mail your Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation, even if the insurance company doesn’t receive it right away.
Contact a property damage attorney immediately if you’re concerned about your Florida property damage claim timeline. They can identify critical case deadlines and efficiently handle every aspect of your claim.
What Happens if I Fail to Comply With the New Requirements?
The new law instructs courts to dismiss lawsuits without prejudice if property owners fail to comply with the new pre-suit notice requirements. So, if you neglect to file a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation or wait the requisite ten days before proceeding to file a lawsuit, the court will have no choice but to reject your case. Similarly, attorneys representing property owners are not permitted to recover legal fees when the court dismisses their cases for non-compliance with the new requirements.
There has been some debate regarding the new pre-lawsuit requirements’ effective date. Most insurance companies have interpreted the new legislation as applicable only to policies issued or renewed on or after July 1, 2021, the new law’s effective date. Carriers that follow this interpretation will not expect a Notice of Intent to Initiate Litigation from property owners whose policies originated before the new requirements’ implementation.
Some carriers might take a more aggressive approach to the new law, so it’s important to know what to expect before you file a lawsuit. A single administrative error could mean the unequivocal dismissal of your case, no matter how well-supported or sympathetic your argument may be. Skilled, seasoned property damage attorneys can help you comply with every aspect of the new requirements and avoid common pitfalls that could jeopardize your recovery.
How Could a Property Damage Lawyer Help You?
When you retain the services of an experienced property damage lawyer in Florida, they can support you through every stage of your legal claim by:
Reviewing your insurance policy to determine the extent and types of any coverage available for property repairs and incidental costs
- Conducting an independent investigation to estimate your property damage claim’s fair value and determine which parties could be liable
- Working with appraisers and reliable experts to calculate the value of the real estate, land improvements, or other damaged or destroyed property
- Obtaining insurance agreements, incident reports, repair estimates, witness statements, banking records, and other documentation for your claim
- Managing essential case documents, dates, and deadlines on your behalf, including those related to Florida’s new pre-lawsuit notice requirements
- Communicating with repair shops, contractors, property associations, insurance companies, attorneys, and other parties on your behalf
- Filing claim paperwork on your behalf and working tirelessly to maximize the value of your settlement every step of the way
If you are dealing with the fallout of catastrophic property damage in Florida, a good lawyer can help. You need to contact an attorney who will stand up to insurance providers who refuse to play fair and help you demand the recovery you deserve.