The South Carolina Guide to Property Insurance Claims: Deadlines, Laws, and FAQs
If you’re dealing with a homeowners, commercial property, condo, or other property insurance claim in South Carolina, you’ve come to the right place.
Brelly’s Guide to Property Insurance Claims in South Carolina breaks down and simplifies the most important information you need to know about South Carolina laws so you can get the claim paid fully, fairly, and fast. We cover key deadlines that every policyholder and professional should know. We also provide FAQs that address some of your most pressing insurance claim questions. And we round it out with a curated list of important South Carolina statutes and regulations related to property insurance claims.
Note: This guide focuses on South Carolina property claims — not health, disability, life, or liability claims. It also doesn’t cover flood insurance claims, which is a very specialized type of claim. But for homeowners claims, condo claims, commercial property claims, and any other claim for covered property in South Carolina, this is your go-to resource.
Make the Claim
Prove the Loss
Get the Check
South Carolina Property Claim FAQs
Anyone dealing with a claim, even a seasoned professional, runs into questions and issues that aren’t easy to answer. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with South Carolina-specific FAQs written by insurance-law experts. Whether you’re a homeowner, a business, or a professional, our FAQs address every phase of the claim, from initial loss to final payment.
Making the Claim -- Frequently Asked Questions
One of the very first things to do in a claim is actually make the claim. Doing this is simpler than it might seem — all that’s legally required is notice to the insurance company about the loss (fire, theft, water, etc.). It’s still important to understand best practices at this stage to avoid pitfalls that could prove costly later in the claim.
When is the deadline to file an insurance claim in South Carolina?
South Carolina law doesn’t impose a specific deadline to file an insurance claim, but we encourage claimants to file a claim as soon as possible, and in no event more than 30 days after the loss.
Why such urgency? For starters, it’s required by the insurance policy. Every insurance policy has a section describing the policyholder’s duties after loss, and without fail one of those duties is to “promptly” or “immediately” notify the insurance company about a loss. This initial notice — often called a First Notice of Loss (FNOL) — kicks off the claims process and in most cases counts as “filing” or “making” a claim. The earlier you trigger this process, the earlier the insurance company can start working on the claim. The FNOL also triggers a 20-day deadline for the insurance company to send the claimant whatever proof of loss forms it wants the claimant to submit.
What if it’s been more than 30 days since the loss? Don’t despair, it’s still probably not too late to file your claim, especially if the state of the property hasn’t significantly changed since the loss. For significant delays (around a year or more), you may want to consult an attorney before notifying the insurer of the loss.
How do I file an insurance claim in South Carolina?
Although filing a claim is relatively simple, following a few best practices helps you to avoid pitfalls and protect your claim. That’s why we’ve written a comprehensive guide for how to file your insurance claim.
For the short version, here are three basic steps to filing a claim:
- Step 1: Notify the Insurer and Secure Your Claim Number.
- Start by going to your insurer’s or insurance agent’s website and follow the prompts for making a claim. If you can’t find information there, look for your insurance company on this list of South Carolina claim contact numbers.
- When notifying your insurer, keep it simple and to the point. Your only goals are to: (1) give a basic description of what happened to your property and (2) obtain a claim number. No special formalities are required at this stage in the process.
- If you make a claim by phone, be sure to record the person’s name and adjuster number, if applicable.
- Step 2: Follow-Up in Writing
- Be proactive and follow-up in writing to confirm the fact that you notified the insurer about a loss and when that notice occurred.
- For a quick and easy follow-up template, you can download a free Notice of Loss Template from Brelly here.
- Step 3: Calendar Your Next Moves
- Even though South Carolina laws don’t set specific timelines for insurers to respond to your FNOL, they do require reasonable promptness in responding to your claim and moving it forward.
- So set your own deadlines on your calendar for following up on the claim. Those timetables might be:
- +14 days: your insurer should respond to your claim.
- +28 days: your insurer should inspect your property.
- +60 days: unless it’s a very simple claim, you should file a proof of loss.
- The point in setting your own deadlines isn’t to add stress to an already stressful situation, but to set a reminder so you can stay on top of your claim.
Should I file a claim even though I don’t know the full extent of the losses?
One common misperception about making a claim is that it requires knowing the full scope of damage or loss. In most cases, that’s practically impossible and contrary to the duties in the insurance policy.
Policyholders and claimants rarely know the full extent of loss — indeed, one of the primary purposes of insurance adjusters is to take the time necessary to investigate your property so they can determine the full scope of insured loss.
The insurance policy also makes clear that your duty to promptly notify the insurer about the loss doesn’t require giving a definitive summary of how much is owed. That comes later, when you file a proof of loss.
Should I file a claim even though my losses might not exceed my deductible?
The answer to this question depends on the specifics of your loss, but in most cases it’s better to err on the side of caution and at least notify the insurance company about the loss.
It’s true that you don’t want to file a claim if you’re certain that the losses will not exceed the applicable deductible. So if someone breaks a window in your home, and you quickly get an estimate from a qualified contractor showing that the repair is simple and will cost less than your deductible, you’re probably safe in not making a claim on broken window.
But more often than not, the danger is that you mistakenly underestimate the extent of your losses. Let’s say your upstairs bathtub overflows or a major storm passes through your area. In each case, you inspect your property and find some water in your house but no obvious damage, so you refrain from notifying your insurer. What you don’t know is that in each case, water has seeped into your walls and floors, enabling rot that you won’t discover for months or years later. By the time that happens, there’s a risk that your insurer will deny a claim because you didn’t provide prompt notice of the loss. So unless the loss is simply and you’re absolutely certain that your losses cannot exceed your deductible, you should always promptly notify the insurance company about a loss.
How do I get reimbursed for expenses like emergency repairs, food, lodging and gas?
Most homeowners policies include coverage for unavoidable expenses. These policies often cover you for making emergency repairs, although be aware that some policies cap emergency repair reimbursements unless the insurer gives prior written authorization.
If a covered peril forces you to leave your home, your policy may also reimburse you for the additional living expenses you incur due to the evacuation or removal. Expenses like food, lodging, and gas may all be covered by your policy.
Insurers are usually relatively prompt in paying for these out-of-pocket expenses. Keep your receipts or other proof of payment and send them in (usually via email) regularly for quick reimbursements.
When should an insurance company in South Carolina acknowledge my claim?
In South Carolina, an insurance company must acknowledge your claim and respond to any related communications “with reasonable promptness.” Insurance Code § 38-59-20(2). Although some states, like Florida, have passed laws setting very specific timetables for an insurance company to acknowledge a claim and respond to communications, South Carolina is not one of those states.
But that doesn’t mean South Carolina is totally silent on the issue. Under South Carolina Insurance Code section 38-59-20(2), insurers may violate South Carolina law if they “Fail to acknowledge with reasonable promptness pertinent communications with respect to claims arising under its policies . . . .” So if your insurer is unreasonably late in acknowledging your claim or otherwise not responding to your communications, you may want to remind the insurer of its duty under South Carolina law to respond promptly.
Is an assignment of benefits (AOB) legal in South Carolina?
Yes. As the Supreme Court of South Carolina recently confirmed, a policyholder can assign post-loss benefits under an insurance contract even if language in the policy explicitly prohibits any assignment of the policy. PCS Nitrogen, Inc. v. Continental Cas. Co., 871 S.E.2d 590 (S.C. 2022).
In insurance claims, an assignment of benefits, or AOB, is an agreement where a policyholder or insured gives someone else the right to receive benefits under the insurance policy. These agreements are commonplace in healthcare claims — they’re what gives a healthcare provider the authority follow-up directly with a health insurer to get paid directly for the services provided to the patient. But in the world of property claims, some states have taken measures to limit or ban AOBs. Not South Carolina. Unless the South Carolina legislature takes special measures to outlaw AOBs, they are allowed in the state.
Proving the Loss -- Frequently Asked Questions
After you’ve notified your insurance company and started the claim, you need to prove the losses to the insurance company. Proving that the property suffered losses and that those losses are covered under the insurance policy is at the heart of an insurance claim. Here’s what you need to know when navigating this stage of your claim.
When is the deadline in South Carolina for an insurer to begin investigating the claim?
There’s no specific deadline in South Carolina for an insurance company to begin investigating an insurance claim. Still, under Insurance Code section 38-59-20(3), a insurer may face regulatory scrutiny and penalties if it “fail[s] to adopt and implement reasonable standards for the prompt investigation and settlement of claims.”
If the issue is widespread, the consequences can be severe. South Carolina law provides that the repeated failure to promptly investigate and settle claims can result in fines and, in extreme cases, the revocation of the insurer’s state license. Insurance Code § 38-2-10.
What’s the best way to prove my losses to the insurance company?
Complete and submit a sworn statement in proof of loss.
We cannot emphasize enough how important a proof of loss is for a claim, especially those involving significant or complex losses. A proof of loss (POL) is a sworn, formal document in which the claimant describes exactly how much money the insurance company owes on the claim. Many people — even seasoned pros! — are intimated by the formality of a POL. Although it does contain a lot of antiquated language and requires your signature and (often) a notary, at the end of the day, a POL is simply a sworn statement describing how much the claimant is owed.
To understand all the ins and outs of a POL, we encourage you to read Brelly’s Ultimate Guide to Proof of Loss. If you’re looking for the short version, just know this: A proof of loss can help you to quickly and favorably resolve a claim.
Why? For starters, it clarifies for the insurer exactly how much money is being sought on the claim. This may seem like basic stuff, but it’s amazing how often misunderstandings or poor communications lead to a situation where the insurer thinks you’re asking for X, when you’re actually asking for way more than X. The proof of loss also carries additional weight because: (a) it contains proof of what’s owed, usually in the form of contractor estimates or invoices, and (b) the claimant must swear that what’s in the POL package isn’t fraudulent.
Finally, in South Carolina, submitting a proof of loss puts the insurer on a 90-day clock to pay your claim. Under Insurance Code section 38-59-40, an insurance company in South Carolina is liable for attorney’s fees if within 90 days of receiving a demand for payment it fails pay the claim within without reasonable cause or in bad faith. That’s a big deal. Attorney’s fees incentivize lawyers to take on insurance cases even when the amount owed isn’t huge. For that reason, South Carolina’s 90-day clock is something an insurance company should watch closely. But remember: the deadline isn’t triggered until you actually demand a specific amount of payment, and the best way to do that is to file a proof of loss.
When is the deadline to submit a proof of loss?
In South Carolina, the deadline to submit a proof of loss is dictated by the terms of the insurance policy, not by state law. Typically, insurance policies provide that the policyholder must submit a proof of loss within 60 days of receiving a request from the insurer to provide one. You should check your policy to confirm the period that’s applicable to your claim — you can usually find it in the section detailing the policyholder’s duties after a loss.
As we explain in our guide to proofs of loss, you should consider filing a proof of loss even if your insurer doesn’t explicitly request one. If the claim is simple, it’s moving quickly, and there’s unlikely to be any misunderstanding or dispute about how much is owed on the claim, you probably don’t need to submit a proof of loss. But for any other claims, a proof of loss can be extremely helpful for your claim.
Is there a specific form I must use to file a proof of loss in South Carolina?
It depends. If the insurer sent you a proof of loss form within 20 days of receiving your initial notice of loss, then it’s best to use that form. If not, then you’re free to use whatever form you want. If you’re looking for a pre-vetted form, you can download a free proof of loss form here.
South Carolina laws don’t dictate specific language or formatting that must be included in a proof of loss. But under section 38-59-10 of the South Carolina Insurance Code, an insurer has 20 days from receiving the First Notice of Loss to provide the claimant with any special proof of loss forms that are required. If the insurer fails to give the claimant a proof of loss form in that 20-day timeframe, the claimant can submit a proof of loss in whatever form it wants as long as the submission covers “the occurrence, character, and extent of the loss.” This is a relatively low burden. In one South Carolina case, a court found that the policyholder’s original loss report contained enough information to qualify as a valid proof of loss under Insurance Code section 38-59-10. Williams v. S.C. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co., 168 S.E.2d 794 (S.C. 1969). Even with this low burden, you’re better positioned by sending the insurer a more accurate, complete proof of loss than relying on a bare-bones initial loss report.
Getting the Check -- Frequently Asked Questions
Getting the money you need to be made whole — it’s the reason a policyholder pays premiums. Here are a few expert pointers to know at this crucial final steps in the insurance claim.
When is the deadline in South Carolina for an insurer to pay or deny my insurance claim?
Can an insurance company in South Carolina reject my claim without properly investigating it?
No, it cannot. Rejecting a claim without investigating the loss or the applicable terms of the policy would constitute improper claim practices under South Carolina law, among other potential violations of state law.
What happens if an insurer in South Carolina doesn’t pay my claim in 90 days?
If the insurance company denied payment without reasonable cause or in bad faith, then it’s liable for attorney’s fees. Insurance Code § 38-59-40. As we noted above, attorney’s fees serve as a powerful deterrent against an insurer underpaying a claim.
What can I do if I think my insurance company has wrongly denied or underpaid my claim?
You have a few options, depending on the nature of your claim.
Confirm the Status of Your Claim
The first thing you want to do is to confirm that the insurer has actually denied your claim. Sometimes insurers will drag their feet in processing your claim without clearly accepting or denying your claim. If this is the case, you should write your insurer and demand that the insurer state in writing whether and to what extent it is denying your claim, and if so, explain the reasons for the denial.
File a Complaint
If a claim is stuck, or if the insurance company has wrongly denied a claim, delayed payment, or otherwise violated the rules and statutes covered in this guide, you can file a complaint with the South Carolina Department of Insurance. Filing a complaint doesn’t guarantee success but it is something that regulators and insurers have to take seriously.
Consider a Public Adjuster
A public adjuster is an insurance adjuster who works for policyholders. A good public adjuster can review your claim file and help build a better case for why the insurer should pay your claim. Often this happens because the public adjuster can create more detailed, defensible documentation of the damages and expected cost of repairs. Before hiring a public adjuster, do your homework by talking with references and confirming that the adjusters is licensed in South Carolina. You should also know that a public adjuster charges a fee — usually as a percentage of any additional amounts that your insurer pays on the claim.
Talk to an Attorney
As a last option, you may need to consult an attorney, especially if the insurer’s actions are especially egregious or you’re coming up on the three-year deadline to file suit.
What are the elements for insurance bad faith in South Carolina?
To prevail on a claim on insurance bad faith in South Carolina, you must show: (1) the existence of a mutually binding contract of insurance between the plaintiff and the defendant; (2) refusal by the insurer to pay benefits due under the contract; (3) resulting from the insurer’s bad faith or unreasonable action in breach of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing arising on the contract; (4) causing damage to the insured. Cock-N-Bull Steak House v. Generali Ins. Co., 466 S.E. 2d 727, 730 (S.C. 1996).
When is the deadline to sue an insurance company on a claim in South Carolina?
In South Carolina, the deadline to sue for an insurer for wrongly denying a claim is three years from when the insurer first denies part or all of the claim. S.C. Insurance Code § 15-3-530(8); Davis v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., no. 6:16-3100-TMC (D.S.C. 2017).
The key date here is when the insurance company first denies a claim. Although an insurance company should give you a clear, written denial of your claim that contains an explanation for the denial, this doesn’t always happen. And when it doesn’t happen, it can be difficult to determine exactly when the denial occurred. Another complicating factor is if an insurer denies part but not all of your claim. In all of these scenarios, the takeaway is the same: You should start counting the three-year statute of limitations from the earliest possible date that an insurer could claim it denied the claim, including an ambiguous denial, a denial over the phone, or a partial denial.
South Carolina Laws & Statutes That Impact Your Insurance Claim
Unlike in some states, South Carolina does not impose many statutory deadlines on insurance claims. And for the few deadlines that are on the books, missing the deadline doesn’t open the insurer up to a private lawsuit. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t other real consequences that an insurer would face for violating South Carolina laws, so the statutes we cover below still very much matter.
S.C. Insurance Code § 38-1-20: Definitions
. . . .
(50) “Property insurance” means each insurance against direct or indirect loss of or damage to a property resulting from fire, smoke, weather disturbances, climatic conditions, earthquake, volcanic eruption, rising waters, insects, blight, animals, war damage, riot, civil commotion, destruction by order of civil authority to prevent spread of conflagration or for other reason, water damage, vandalism, glass breakage, explosion of a water system, collision, theft of automobiles, and personal effects in them (but no other forms of theft insurance), loss of or damage to domestic or wild animals, and any other perils to property which in the discretion of the director or his designee form proper subjects of property insurance, if not specified in items (1) [accident and health], (7) [annuity], (11) [casualty], (35) [life], (40) [marine], (54) [surety] , or (59) [title] of this section.
S.C. Insurance Code § 38-75-790: Nonrenewal of homeowners insurance.
No insurer may nonrenew a policy of homeowners insurance because the insured has filed a claim with that insurer for damages resulting from an act of God.
S.C. Insurance Code § 38-75-1220: Prohibited grounds for refusal to renew policy
(A) . . . .
(2) An insurer may not refuse to renew an insurance policy covered in this article only because of any one of the following factors:
(a) lawful occupation, including the military service;
(b) lack of supporting business or lack of the potential for acquiring the business;
(c) one or more claims that occurred more than thirty-six months immediately preceding the upcoming anniversary date; or
(d) inquiries concerning coverage submitted to the insurer where no notice of claim was made.
S.C. Insurance Code § 38-59-10: Proof of loss forms required to be furnished.
When an insurer under an insurance policy requires a written proof of loss after the notice of the loss has been given by the insured or beneficiary, the insurer or its representative shall furnish a blank to be used for that purpose. If the forms are not furnished within twenty days after the receipt of the notice, the claimant is considered to have complied with the requirements of the policy as to proof of loss upon submitting within the time fixed in the policy for filing proofs of loss written proof covering the occurrence, character, and extent of the loss for which claim is made. The twenty-day period after notice of loss to furnish forms applies to all types of insurance unless a lesser time period is specifically provided by law.
S.C. Insurance Code § 38-59-20: Improper claim practices.
Any of the following acts by an insurer doing accident and health insurance, property insurance, casualty insurance, surety insurance, marine insurance, or title insurance business, if committed without just cause and performed with such frequency as to indicate a general business practice, constitutes improper claim practices:
(1) Knowingly misrepresenting to insureds or third-party claimants pertinent facts or policy provisions relating to coverages at issue or providing deceptive or misleading information with respect to coverages.
(2) Failing to acknowledge with reasonable promptness pertinent communications with respect to claims arising under its policies, including third-party claims arising under liability insurance policies.
(3) Failing to adopt and implement reasonable standards for the prompt investigation and settlement of claims, including third-party liability claims, arising under its policies.
(4) Not attempting in good faith to effect prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of claims, including third-party liability claims, submitted to it in which liability has become reasonably clear.
(5) Compelling policyholders or claimants, including third-party claimants under liability policies, to institute suits to recover amounts reasonably due or payable with respect to claims arising under its policies by offering substantially less than the amounts ultimately recovered through suits brought by the claimants or through settlements with their attorneys employed as the result of the inability of the claimants to effect reasonable settlements with the insurers.
(6) Offering to settle claims, including third-party liability claims, for an amount less than the amount otherwise reasonably due or payable based upon the possibility or probability that the policyholder or claimant would be required to incur attorneys’ fees to recover the amount reasonably due or payable.
(7) Invoking or threatening to invoke policy defenses or to rescind the policy as of its inception, not in good faith and with a reasonable expectation of prevailing with respect to the policy defense or attempted rescission, but for the primary purpose of discouraging or reducing a claim, including a third-party liability claim.
(8) Any other practice which constitutes an unreasonable delay in paying or an unreasonable failure to pay or settle in full claims, including third-party liability claims, arising under coverages provided by its policies.
S.C. Insurance Code § 38-59-30: Notice and hearing by director or designee; penalties.
If, after due notice and hearing, the director or his designee determines that the insurer has engaged in any of the improper claim practices defined in Section 38-59-20, he shall order the insurer to cease and desist from the practice and may impose a penalty as provided in Section 38-2-10. If the penalty is imposed, the penalty may not be considered a cost of the insurer for purposes of determining whether or not the rates of the insurer warrant adjustment.
S.C. Insurance Code § 38-59-40: Liability for attorneys’ fees where insurer has refused to pay claim.
(1) In the event of a claim, loss, or damage which is covered by a policy of insurance or a contract of a nonprofit hospital service plan or a medical service corporation and the refusal of the insurer, plan, or corporation to pay the claim within ninety days after a demand has been made by the holder of the policy or contract and a finding on suit of the contract made by the trial judge that the refusal was without reasonable cause or in bad faith, the insurer, plan, or corporation is liable to pay the holder, in addition to any sum or any amount otherwise recoverable, all reasonable attorneys’ fees for the prosecution of the case against the insurer, plan, or corporation. The amount of reasonable attorneys’ fees must be determined by the trial judge and the amount added to the judgment. The amount of the attorneys’ fees may not exceed one-third of the amount of the judgment.
(2) If attorneys’ fees are allowed and, on appeal by the defendant, the judgment is affirmed, the Supreme Court or the court of appeals shall allow to the respondent an additional sum as the court adjudges reasonable as attorneys’ fees of the respondent on the appeal.
(3) Nothing in this section may be construed to alter or affect the Tyger River Pine Co. v. Maryland Casualty Co., 161 SE 491, 163 SC 229, doctrine.
(4) This section applies to cases filed or removed to federal court and cases appealed in the federal court system.
S.C. Insurance Code § 38-2-10: Administrative penalties
(A) Unless otherwise specifically provided by law, the following administrative penalties apply for each violation of the insurance laws of this State or federal insurance laws subject to enforcement by the Department of Insurance:
(1) If the violator is an insurer, pharmacy benefits manager, or a health maintenance organization licensed in this State, the director or his designee shall fine the violator in an amount not to exceed fifteen thousand dollars, suspend or revoke the violator’s authority to do business in this State, or both. If the violation is wilful, the director or his designee shall fine the violator in an amount not to exceed thirty thousand dollars, suspend or revoke the violator’s authority to do business in this State, or both.
. . . .
(B) The penalties in subsection (A) are in addition to any criminal penalties provided by law or any other remedies provided by law. The administrative proceedings in subsection (A) do not preclude civil or criminal proceedings from taking place before, during, or after the administrative proceeding.
S.C. Insurance Code § 15-3-530(8): Three Year Statute of Limitations.
Within three years:
. . . .
(8) an action on any policy of insurance, either fire or life, whereby any person or property, resident or situate in this State, may be or may have been insured, or for or on account of any loss arising under the policy, any clause, condition, or limitation contained in the policy to the contrary notwithstanding; and