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Notice periods that apply to British Columbia insurance claims

This book was written by Michael Dew, a Vancouver lawyer who practices civil litigation, including representing persons who have been denied coverage under property insurance policies, or liability insurance policies. If you have been denied insurance coverage and require assistance with making a claim against your insurer call Michael at 604 895 3160.
A notice period is a deadline by which the claimant must send a letter giving notice of an intention to make a particular claim, and the purpose of notice periods are to allow the person entitled to notice (i.e. the insurance company) to have the details they need to take steps to investigate the claim. For example, if there is a fire for which an insurance claim will be made the insurer may want to have an inspector attend the scene to assess the damage and possibly investigate the cause of the fire.
Statutory condition #6 in s. 29 of the Insurance Act, RSBC 2012, c. 1 specifies the notice periods that apply in respect of insurance contracts governed by those statutory conditions (see discussion above):
On the happening of any loss of or damage to insured property, the insured must, if the loss or damage is covered by the contract, in addition to observing the requirements of Statutory Condition 9,
(a)        immediately give notice in writing to the insurer,
(b)        deliver as soon as practicable to the insurer a proof of loss in respect of the loss or damage to the insured property verified by statutory declaration,
(i)                 giving a complete inventory of that property and showing in detail quantities and cost of that property and particulars of the amount of loss claimed,
(ii)               stating when and how the loss occurred, and if caused by fire or explosion due to ignition, how the fire or explosion originated, so far as the insured knows or believes,
(iii)             stating that the loss did not occur through any wilful act or neglect or the procurement, means or connivance of the insured,
(iv)             stating the amount of other insurances and the names of other insurers,
(v)               stating the interest of the insured and of all others in that property with particulars of all liens, encumbrances and other charges on that property,
(vi)             stating any changes in title, use, occupation, location, possession or exposure of the property since the contract was issued, and
(vii)           stating the place where the insured property was at the time of loss,
(Insurance Act, RSBC 2012, c. 1, s. 29, statutory condition #6).
The policy wording of the insurance contract should be carefully examined to determine what additional notice requirements (i.e. in addition to those specified by the statutory conditions) are imposed by the policy wording.
Statutory condition #14 specifies how notices are to be delivered:
(1)        Written notice to the insurer may be delivered at, or sent by registered mail to, the chief agency or head office of the insurer in the province.
(2)        Written notice to the insured may be personally delivered at, or sent by registered mail addressed to, the insured's last known address as provided to the insurer by the insured.
(Insurance Act, RSBC 2012, c. 1, s. 29, statutory condition #14).
As noted above, a purpose of giving notice to the insurer is to allow the insurer to investigate the loss. Indeed, statutory condition 10 gives the insurer the right to access the property at which the loss occurred to survey the property and estimate the loss:
After loss or damage to insured property, the insurer has
(a)        an immediate right of access and entry by accredited representatives sufficient to enable them to survey and examine the property, and to make an estimate of the loss or damage, and
(b)        after the insured has secured the property, a further right of access and entry by accredited representatives sufficient to enable them to appraise or estimate the loss or damage, but
(i)         without the insured’s consent, the insurer is not entitled to the control or possession of the insured property, and
(ii)        without the insurer’s consent, there can be no abandonment to it of the insured property.
(Insurance Act, RSBC 2012, c. 1, s. 29, statutory condition #10).
Insureds should take notice periods seriously, provide notice to the insured as soon as possible after a loss, and then cooperate in allowing the insurer an opportunity to investigate the loss.
It is not necessary that the insured personally give notice, but certain designated other persons may give notice on behalf of the insured. Statutory condition #8 provides as follows:
Notice of loss under Statutory Condition 6 (1) (a) may be given and the proof of loss under Statutory Condition 6 (1) (b) may be made
(a)        by the agent of the insured, if
(i)         the insured is absent or unable to give the notice or make the proof, and
(ii)        the absence or inability is satisfactorily accounted for, or
(b)        by a person to whom any part of the insurance money is payable, if the insured refuses to do so or in the circumstances described in clause (a) of this condition.
(Insurance Act, RSBC 2012, c. 1, s. 29, statutory condition #8).
Statutory condition (8)(b) is designed to deal with the situation where an insured (for example under a liability insurance policy)  refuses to give notice to its own insurer under a policy that would otherwise be available to pay the plaintiff damages. In that situation the plaintiff who is suing the insured, or a co-defendant who is cross claiming against the insured, may be able to give notice to the insurer in order to trigger coverage under the policy.