When it comes to giving your insurance carrier notice of claim, I am an advocate of providing that notice as soon as possible, i.e., prompt notice. The reason is to take away the carrier’s argument to deny coverage because you, as the insured, failed to provide it with prompt notice—the “untimely notice” defense. It doesn’t matter whether it is a first party property insurance claim or third-party liability policy claim, provide notice as soon as reasonably possible to take away that “untimely notice” defense.

The “untimely notice” defense was the issue in Benson v. Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange, 48 Fla.L.Weekly D1085a (Fla. 6th DCA 2023) dealing with a first party property insurance policy.  In this case, eighteen months after Hurricane Irma, the plaintiff noticed a smell and observed brown stains on walls and ceiling in his home. The plaintiff called roofing companies to inspect the damage and perform certain repairs.  However, the plaintiff still noticed the smell so he called a company to test and remediate mold. The plaintiff, then, contacted his property insurer with numerous claims relative to the leaks and damage. Although there was an initial property insurance payment made, the carrier ultimately denied coverage for subsequent claims stating that “the late notice of the claim and the prior repairs to the roof substantially prejudiced its ability to complete an inspection of [plaintiff’s] property to evaluate the claim.” Benson, supra.   The property insurance policy included the following notice language:

In the event of a loss for which coverage may be provided under this policy, you. . .must. . .[g]ive prompt notice to us or our agent, except that a claim, supplemental claim or reopened claim for loss or damage caused by hurricane or other windstorm must be given to us in accordance with the terms of this policy within three years after the hurricane first made landfall or a windstorm other than hurricane caused the covered damage. . .Any initial, supplemental or reopened claim for loss or damage caused by hurricane or other windstorm is barred if notice of the claim in accordance with this Paragraph is not provided.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit and the property insurance carrier moved for summary judgment based on the “untimely notice” defense, which was granted by the trial court.  This was reversed on appeal.  The Sixth District Court of Appeal provides a good discussion of the “untimely notice” defense and its two-pronged test which can serve beneficial to an insured:

“Prompt” is not defined in the policy issued by [the property insurance carrier] to [the plaintiff]. “It is well settled, however, that ‘prompt’ and other comparable phrases, like ‘immediate’ and ‘as soon as practicable,’ do not require instantaneous notice.”  “Instead, Florida courts have interpreted these phrases to mean that notice should be provided with reasonable dispatch and within a reasonable time in view of all of the facts and circumstances of the particular case.”  “[T]he duty to provide notice arises when a reasonable person, viewing all available facts and information, would conclude that an award implicating the policy is likely.” 

The Supreme Court of Florida has set forth a two-step process to determine whether an insurance company may deny an insured’s claim on the ground that the insured failed to give the insurance company timely notice of the claim as required by an insurance policy.  “The first step in the analysis is to determine whether or not the notice was timely given.”  If the notice was timely given, then the analysis concludes at the first step.  If the notice was not timely, then the second step is to determine whether the insurance company suffered prejudice as a result of the untimely notice.  At the second stage of the analysis, prejudice to the insurer is presumed.  If notice was not timely, the burden of overcoming the presumption of prejudice is on the insured.  However, the insured may rebut the presumption of prejudice by showing that the insurer was not prejudiced by the lack of timely notice.  “If the insured is unable to overcome the presumption of prejudice, then the insurer will prevail on a defense of untimely notice.” 

Benson, supra (internal citations omitted).

A good thing for the plaintiff—the insured—is that whether prompt notice was provided is typically a question of fact for the trier of fact. Benson, supra. It is based on the “reasonable person” standard, underlined above. “In this case, there was disputed evidence regarding whether a reasonable person in [the plaintiff’s] position would have concluded that he had a claim under his insurance policy any time significantly earlier than when [the plaintiff] gave notice to [his property insurance carrier] of the claim.” Benson, supra.

While the two-pronged test can seem beneficial, the reality is this is all avoidable by providing notice as soon as you reasonably can. Because if untimely notice is given and prejudice is presumed, the burden in overcoming the presumption of prejudice will be on you, as the insured, in a completely avoidable scenario.

Please contact David Adelstein at or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.



Notice, notice, notice. This should be your mindset when it comes to notifying your insurance carrier of a potential claim or loss.  I get it. Notice means opening up a claim number and the potential increase in insurance premiums.  Yet, untimely notice could mean fighting with your insurance carrier as to whether you provided them prompt notice. Thus, I operate with the “notice, notice, notice” mindset in providing notice of a potential claim or loss that could trigger duties or obligations under the policy. It is the better safe than sorry approach and avoids the needless notice fight.

The property insurance opinion in SFR Services, LLC v. Hartford Insurance Company of the Midwest, 2022 WL 2340519 (S.D.Fla. 2022) illustrates this “untimely notice” fight and, importantly, how certain policy language can change the dynamics of this fight.  Here, notification of a hurricane roof damage claim was provided by the insured to the property insurer almost three years after the hurricane. In the interim, the insured had their roof repaired on multiple occasions. Finally, the insured notified the property insurer and the claim was denied. The insured sued the property insurer for coverage and the insurer moved for summary judgment arguing the insured failed to provide it timely notice as required by the policy.

[N]otice is a condition precedent to coverage, and an insured’s failure to provide ‘timely notice of loss in contravention of a policy provision is a legal basis for the denial of recovery under the policy.” SFR Services, supra, at *2 (citation omitted).

However, just because an insurer claims it did not receive timely notice does not end the discussion. There is a two-step process.  “First, the Court must determine ‘whether the insured provided timely notice.’ Second, ‘if notice was untimely, prejudice to the insurer is presumed, but that presumption may be rebutted.’”  SFR Services, supra, at *2 (citations omitted).

Step 1- Whether the Insured Provided Timely Notice

Whether the insured provided timely notice employs a reasonable person standard.  “[N]otice is necessary when there has been an occurrence that should lead a reasonable and prudent man to believe that a claim for damages would arise. SFR Services, supra (citation omitted).

Step 2- If Notice is Untimely and Prejudice is Presumed, that Presumption may be Rebutted

If notice is untimely, prejudice is presumed; but, this presumption may be rebutted by the insured.

To carry this burden, an insured must show that the insurer was able to inspect the property in the same condition it was in right after the loss by presenting evidence creating a genuine dispute of fact as to ‘(a) whether better conclusions could have been drawn without the delay in providing notice, (b) whether those conclusions could have been drawn more easily, (c) whether the repairs to the affected areas that took place in the interim would complicate and evaluation of the extent of the damage or the insured’s efforts to mitigate its damages, or (d) whether an investigation conducted immediately following the occurrence would not have disclosed anything materially different from that disclosed by the delayed investigation.’” 

SFR Services, supra, at *3 (citations omitted).

The Twist

But in this case, there is a twist.  And it is a crucial twist to this two-step process.

The Court looked at language in the property insurance policy that provided the insurer had “no duty to provide coverage under this policy if the [Insureds’] failure to comply” with their duties “is prejudicial to [Defendant].”  SFR Services, supra.

The insured argued that this policy language removes the presumption of prejudice in favor of the insurer and shifts the burden on the insurer to PROVE prejudice, i.e., that the insured’s failure to comply is prejudicial to the insurer.  There is a huge difference between prejudice being presumed because of untimely notice (which has to be rebutted by the insured) and the insurer required to prove the prejudice.  The Court found that under this language in the policy, the insurer is actually required to show prejudice:

Upon careful consideration, the Court must reject the body of precedent within this district that a presumption of prejudice may arise when a policy provision requires that an insured’s failure to comply with an enumerated duty be prejudicial to the insurer. Because there is no presumption of prejudice, a genuine issue of material fact remains as to whether the Insureds’ failure to timely notify Defendant was prejudicial, and the Motion must be denied. To hold otherwise would create a regime under which an insurer may obtain a different result in federal court than that required by the new line of cases in Florida state court.

SFR Services, supra.

This “twist” changes the dynamic of the “untimely notice” fight all due to policy language that basically says that the insurer has no coverage obligations if the insured’s failure to comply with his/her/its duties is prejudicial to the insurer.  The Court’s ruling is ultimately saying that the insurer cannot hide behind the presumption of prejudice requiring the insured to rebut the prejudice because the policy, itself, puts that burden on the insurer.  Big difference.

Please contact David Adelstein at or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.