Laches and Estoppel: Everything You Need to Know
Laches and estoppel refers to the denial of a claim that hasn't been acted on in a timely manner.3 min read
Laches and estoppel refers to the denial of a claim that hasn't been acted on in a timely manner. Called, estoppel by laches, some courts will deny someone the right to make a claim because they took too long or were negligent. Think of a person who is in a car accident but waits a year to file an insurance claim. They may be denied coverage through estoppel by laches.
What Is Estoppel?
Estoppel is a legal term that refers to a person being barred from asserting their rights or their ability to claim or deny a fact, because of their failure to act in a case identical to their current one, their actions, previous statements, admissions, or conduct. Estoppel by laches happens when the person is barred from asserting their rights due to their lack of timeliness. If the person waits until the other party is hindered because of their waiting, they are barred from making a claim against the other party.
Other types of estoppel include:
- Equitable estoppel.
- Collateral estoppel.
- Promissory estoppel.
What Is Laches?
Laches is another legal term that means someone is basically out of time. If one party wants to make a legal claim against another party, they need to do so before the other party is limited or prejudiced by the time that has passed. There are a few different elements to the rule of laches:
- Claim knowledge.
- Unreasonable delay in action.
When any of these elements took place and therefore harmed the opponent's ability to defend themselves or do right by the claim, the doctrine of laches is enforced, and the claim cannot go forward.
Certain types of legal claims will include a statute of limitations that sets forth a specific time period in which claims must be acted on to be valid. Even without a statute of limitations, however, most claims need to be enacted within a reasonable amount of time when they are known about. The best way to avoid running into the doctrine of estoppel by laches is to ask an experienced attorney for help anytime you have a question about a claim.
Types of Waivers and Estoppel
When signing a waiver, the signee essentially agrees to estoppel on their own. Waivers give up the rights of a party intentionally. This is also called waiver and estoppel. Many companies have lawyers and other professionals who write their contracts for them and who understand these concepts well, but it's also important for the policyholders to understand what they're signing.
Having a thorough understanding of waiver and estoppel and laches and estoppel when entering into a contract with any insurance company could mean the difference between having a claim paid or denied when you need it most.
Here are some of the most common types of waivers that come up in insurance policies:
- Express waiver.
- Implied waiver.
- Waiver by silence.
- Different than waiver.
An express waiver might be written in a contract or orally agreed to, but it is a definite statement of giving up a right. If, for example, an insurance company tells their policyholder that they will not lapse their policy due to missed payments, they are expressly waiving their right to lapse the policy under that circumstance.
An implied waiver isn't put down in words or even said aloud but is implied through the actions of the party that waives their rights. For instance, if a policyholder pays their premium after the official due date and the insurance company receives and accepts it, the company is implying the waiving of their right to enforce the due date and lapse the policy as a consequence.
Waiver by Silence
A waiver by silence happens when one party doesn't speak when they should and therefore waives a certain right. If a policyholder notifies their insurance company of a recovery from disability, but the company continues paying benefits for the disability, the company waives its right to stop those payments because they didn't speak when they learned of the change.
Different Than Waiver
A different than waiver comes into play when one party is trying to treat another unfairly or differently from the past. Say an insurance company has always accepted late payments without canceling policies, but they try to cancel a certain policyholder's coverage due to a late payment. The different than waiver rule may be used to get the insurance company to continue coverage because of their past actions toward other policyholders.
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