First, “fire insurance” means a whole lot more than just “fire.” In fact, Wisconsin courts have said that “fire insurance” is merely a “generic term” that “covers indemnity insurance for losses to property caused by many other perils than fire.” Villa Clement, Inc. v. Nat’l Union Fire Ins. Co., 120 Wis. 2d 140 (Ct. App. 1984). “Fire insurance” is broad enough to include perils such as fire, lightning, hail, tornado and even theft. Considering the many possible causes of property damage that have nothing to do with actual fire, it is crucial to know that this 12-month statute of limitation applies “to any suit to recover for loss from any peril covered by the policy.” Id. at 145-46.
Second, fire insurance’s statutory limitation of 12 months is much shorter than many commonly known statutes of limitation in Wisconsin, such as three years for most negligence actions or six years for most contract disputes. Also, the limitation is 12 months “after the inception of the loss,” not the discovery of the loss. Wisconsin courts have ruled that “inception of the loss” unambiguously means the date on which the loss occurs. It does not matter when the owner-insureds discover the damage. In other words, it is the date of the storm that is important, not the date you discovered the hail damage.
As such, if you are unable to reach an agreement with your insurance company on your property damage, it is crucial to act fast, getting counsel or filing suit yourself, to avoid having your claim completely time-barred by this sneaky 12‑month cutoff.