Deadlines Differ on Quake Claim Suits
Homeowners with disputed insurance claims stemming from the Northridge earthquake may be unnecessarily rushing into costly lawsuits with their insurance companies, said state insurance officials said Friday.
As the anniversary of the Jan. 17 disaster approaches, Insurance Commissioner Charles Quackenbush expressed concern that some homeowners have erroneously been informed that a one-year statute of limitations may run out unless they file their lawsuits by Monday.
But many policyholders with disputed claims may still have time to take legal action, said Quackenbush. He urges quake victims with unresolved claims to contact the Department of Insurance’s toll-free hot line at (800) 927-HELP for advice on determining deadlines for court filings.
Determining when such a lawsuit must be filed can be difficult because deadlines differ by the type of insurance, the carrier and the damages suffered, said a Department of Insurance spokeswoman.
Homeowners whose claims were denied by their insurance companies are granted an extension in which to file their suit equal to the time elapsed between the day they made their claim and the day the insurance companied denied it.
For example, a homeowner who made a claim on Jan. 20 and whose insurance company denied that claim six months later would have an additional six months to file the claim.
However, homeowners who wish to file tort lawsuits--or those involving claims of emotional duress, negligence or personal injury--must file their cases no later than Tuesday to meet the one-year statute.
Quackenbush urged homeowners to review their policies carefully, contact their insurance agents or call the department’s hot line to determine the date of their court deadlines.
Of the 390,000 quake-related insurance claims, nearly 20,000 remain unsettled, according to the Western Insurance Information Service.
State insurance officials do not know how many of those unsettled claims are in dispute.