After you file a claim with your homeowner’s insurance company, your carrier may request a document called a Sworn Proof of Loss (“SPOL”). If you have never heard of a SPOL before, you are not alone. Let’s examine what a SPOL is and how it can affect your homeowner’s claim.
What is a Sworn Proof of Loss?
A SPOL is a statement you make under oath to your insurance company in which you detail the damages your property has sustained as a result of a loss. It is an affidavit you submit to your insurance carrier; your response will be scrutinized for its accuracy and completeness, and it could be used against you in litigation.
Some insurance companies, such as State Farm, have a provision in their homeowner’s insurance policies that requires you to submit a SPOL at the time your claim arises. Unfortunately, many homeowners do not know about this provision. Unless you have read your policy carefully and/or have a working knowledge of the law, it is unlikely that you would know if your policy requires a SPOL. That’s why it is always wise to consult with a Florida homeowner’s attorney—even if you do not intend to file a lawsuit against your insurance carrier.
Why Do Insurance Companies Demand a SPOL?
Insurance carriers receive many property damage claims each year. In Florida, that number can climb up into the thousands after a natural disaster like Hurricane Michael, which ravaged the Florida Panhandle. To streamline the adjusting process, insurance companies request a SPOL early on in the claims process. This allows them to evaluate the extent and scope of damages to your property.
Why You Need to Provide a Timely and Accurate SPOL
A SPOL needs to be submitted on time to your carrier. If it is submitted late, the court may decide that you have failed to comply with your obligation under the insurance policy. Your insurance policy will define the deadline for submission. Usually, it is 30 to 60 days after your insurance carrier requests a SPOL.
Additionally, Florida Courts have determined that if a homeowner files a lawsuit against his or her insurance carrier before submitting a SPOL to the carrier, then the lawsuit is premature. This determination could relieve your carrier of its duties to you, the homeowner, under your insurance policy. In other words, your failure to comply with the SPOL requirement in your policy could provide a “get out of jail free” card to your insurance company. That means they would no longer need to pay your otherwise valid homeowner’s claim!
Because the SPOL is sworn to under oath, if you fail to prepare it accurately, it could be considered insurance fraud. Under Florida law, all SPOL forms must contain the following language:
“Pursuant to s. 817.234, Florida Statutes, any person who, with the intent to injure, defraud, or deceive any insurer or insured, prepares, presents, or causes to be presented a proof of loss or estimate of cost or repair of damaged property in support of a claim under an insurance policy knowing that the proof of loss or estimate of claim or repairs contains any false, incomplete, or misleading information concerning any fact or thing material to the claim commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084, Florida Statutes.”
Contact an Attorney Who Understands the Requirements of a SPOL
Preparing and submitting a SPOL to your insurance carrier is a serious matter. It can mean the difference between your insurance company paying your homeowner’s claim or denying it. It can also have significant legal consequences for you as a homeowner. This is why it is best to consult with an attorney who specializes in this practice area.
If you have additional questions about the SPOL requirements in your homeowner’s insurance policy, call us at (407) 500-EZPZ (3979) today. Information is power, and power is what you need when you are suffering a property loss or damage to your home.
Disclaimer: This column does not create a client-attorney relationship and is not intended as legal advice. Should you need any legal advice, speak to an attorney who is skilled in the area and jurisdiction you require.