Your Insurance Company Generally Has No Duty To Warn You Of Policy Time Limits

Insurance policies frequently include time limits on filing suit against the insurance company.  The time limit can be as short as one year.  Such time limits can be binding and enforceable under Iowa law.  Failure to file suit within the policy time limit can permanently extinguish your legal rights against your insurance company.

So does your insurance company have an obligation to warn you about policy time limits for filing suit, especially if the time limit is about to expire?  The Iowa Supreme Court has consistently said “no,” with one exception.  The exception to the general rule is that your insurance may have an obligation to tell you about policy time limits if you specifically ask.  But that exception applies only if you ask; you’re out of luck if you’re unaware of the policy time limit because you don’t have a copy of your insurance policy and didn’t ask for a copy.

You’re even less likely to get around an expired policy time limit if you had a lawyer before the time limit expired, especially if your attorney was in contact with the insurance company about your claim.  Failing to respond to inquiries from the insurance company, particularly when you have an attorney, is definitely a surefire way to have your claim eliminated by an expired policy time limit.

So what can you take away from this?  First, it’s best to have an attorney assist you with your insurance law claim.  Second, and regardless, make sure you have or request a copy of your insurance policy and read it.  Third, if your insurance policy includes any time limits for filing suit against your insurance company, assume that the time limits are valid and enforceable.  Finally, make sure you file suit against your insurance company within any such time limits because you may permanently forfeit your rights against your insurance company if you don’t.

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