I am of the opinion that if your property insurer requests a sworn proof of loss, furnish one with the assistance of counsel (preferably). Ignoring the insurer’s request or refusing to comply with insurer’s request is NOT value-added; it is simply placing you at a disadvantage based on the insurer’s argument that you, as the insured, materially breached the policy. I generally find no value having to confront this expected argument. Instead, I find value making an effort to comply with post-loss obligations including the insurer’s request to submit a sworn proof of loss. Working with counsel can help you comply with post-loss obligations (conditions precedent) while not weakening the value or merits of your claim.
By way of example, in Edwards v. Safepoint Ins. Co., 46 Fla. L. Weekly D1086a (Fla. 4th DCA 2021), the insured did not provide its property insurer with the requested sworn proof of loss. The insurer moved for summary judgment that the insured’s failure to submit the sworn proof of loss was a material breach of the policy that rendered the policy ineffective. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed explaining “[a] total failure to comply with policy provisions made a prerequisite to suit under the policy may constitute a breach precluding recovery from the insurer as a matter of law. If, however, the insured cooperates to some degree or provides an explanation for its noncompliance, a fact question is presented for resolution by a jury.” Edwards, supra, quoting Haiman v. Federal Ins. Co., 798 So.2d 811, 812 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001).
In Edwards, however, it was undisputed the insured failed to submit the sworn proof of loss. Thus, there was a total failure to comply. More so, the Fourth District held that under Rodrigo v. State Farm Florida Ins. Co., 144 So.3d 690 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014), “(1) an insurer need to show prejudice when the insured breaches a condition precedent to suit, (2) proof of loss is a condition precedent to the insured’s suit, and (3) the insurer did not waive the sworn proof of loss requirement by tendering payment because [i]nvestigating any loss or claim under any policy or engaging in negotiations looking toward a possible settlement of any such loss or claim does not constitute a waiver of a sworn proof of loss requirement.” Edwards, supra (internal quotations omitted).
Clearly, this is not the outcome that any insured wants. But this outcome was due to the insured not complying with its post-loss obligation, or condition precedent to suit, that was requested by the insurer. As you can see, not doing so was not value-added, it disadvantaged the insured to the point where its failure was deemed to render the policy ineffective to its detriment.
Please contact David Adelstein at firstname.lastname@example.org or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.