In light of the recent flood devastation experienced by our neighbours in the Northern Rivers, I’m going to take the opportunity to discuss insurance property damage claims.
Before making any claim, review your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to clarify what is covered under your policy. Request the PDS from your insurer if you don’t have a copy. If your policy excludes flood damage, check to see if you might be covered for storm damage or rainwater damage and how those items are defined in the policy as there might be alternative options available.
Each insurer will have its own claims handling process however most will follow the standards set out in the General Insurance Code of Practice available on the Insurance Council of Australia website. The code includes time frames for responding to claims and determining liability.
Some general things to keep in mind are:
- Take photos or videos of any damage to your property or other items as soon as it safe to do so and before you start the clean-up.
- File your claim with the insurer as soon as possible, even if you need to lodge further relevant information as the claim progresses. By lodging the claim early you can obtain a claim number and start the process so an assessment can be carried out as soon as possible. There may be time limits for lodging a claim which should be set out in your PDS.
- Provide evidence supporting any financial loss such as receipts, invoices or other proof of ownership of damaged property claimed. Your insurer may also request that you keep damaged items for inspection by a claims assessor.
- Talk to your insurer before making any repairs unless they are urgent, they may not be covered if undertaken before liability is determined. Keep any receipts.
- If you are suffering from financial hardship, advise the insurer. Ask if they can fast track your application or make an advance payment.
- Be careful about people that approach you with offers to make property repairs. Any tradesman employed by an insurance company should be able to provide identification and details of your insurer.
- The insurer should provide regular updates as to the progress of your claim and any further information they require. If the claim is denied, they must provide you with written reasons and the complaints procedure. Seek a review if you are unhappy with a determination.
If you have a complaint about how your insurer has handled a claim, the appropriate authority to lodge a complaint with it the Australia Financial Complaints Authority.
There are no words to describe how devastating it must be to lose everything due to a weather event and am hopeful that at least some of this information is helpful to those in our region that have been affected. KC Hilton, WNB Legal.