Summer is on its way and we can already feel it here in Woolgoolga. When I think of summer I think of the beach, ice creams, swimming…and summer storms. While I love a good storm, it can often come with unwanted side effects – strong winds, lightning strikes, hail and damage to buildings and cars.
Most people assume their insurance covers “storm” damage to their property or vehicle, but do you know how your policy defines storm damage?
Be prepared, review the Produce Disclosure Statement (PDS) that was provided with your insurance policy, make sure you understand what is/what is not covered. Some storm related damage may be included under your house insurance but examine the wording, policies often specifically exclude loss or damage caused by storm surges, flooding, or actions of the sea. Comprehensive motor vehicle insurance policies usually cover hail damage but windscreen replacement or a hire vehicle while repairs are undertaken are often optional extras. Check that your policy covers everything you need and decide whether to pay for those extras you may want.
If you do need to make a claim, you will need to notify the insurer of the damage and confirm any loss suffered, usually through a claim form. Please carefully consider your responses to questions in claim forms or in statements provided to investigators as that information will form the basis of how the insurer will assess your claim. Take some photos of any damage to your property or vehicle as soon as possible after the storm has passed and it is safe to do so, preferably on a device that records the time and date. Photos can be vital evidence if there is a dispute later. If you are asked to estimate a value of an item, investigate the costs of a replacement and be as accurate as possible. It will not be in your interests to estimate the value of damaged property to be $500 when it will cost $1000 to replace!
After receipt of a claim, the insurer may request further information or may send an assessor to view the damage to your property/vehicle before they make a decision. Insurers generally have up to 4 months after receipt of a claim to make a determine liability, but you should be kept informed of the progress of the claim at regular intervals. That time frame can be extended to up to 12 months but only if exceptional circumstances apply.
If your claim is refused, you should receive written notification from the insurer setting out the reasons for refusal and how to make complaint. Be aware that time periods may apply for seeking a review of the decision if you disagree.
If your claim is accepted, you may be given the option of being paid a cash settlement rather than the insurer paying for repairs. While a cash settlement may seem like an attractive option, it is important that you make your own enquiries regarding the costs of repairs before accepting as often repairs/replacements are a lot more expensive than you may think. The settlement could also finalise your insurance cover and exclude you from claiming for any potential further damage to the property. If you are unsure about any offer of settlement, do not sign anything without seeking independent advice.
So enjoy the ice cream and the warmer weather but if that destructive summer storm does occur and you need advice or assistance in relation to making an insurance claim, or are unhappy with an insurer’s decision, contact KC Hilton at WNB Legal, 0419 464 946 to discuss your matter.