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10 top tips for recovering compensation from your insurer following a disaster

It’s both amazing and disheartening that so many Australians are left out of pocket as a result of their insurance company not paying up in the aftermath of a disaster. No-one ever thinks that it will happen to them, but all too often it does – and it’s not right.

Making sure you’re adequately prepared for this in the event of a cyclone, flood  or other types of natural disasters is very important, after all - it’s your livelihood and financial prospects that are at stake. Disaster Insurance Lawyer George Newhouse shares some of his top tips to ensure you recover the compensation you deserve and are entitled to, in the event the unthinkable happens.

  1. The first step is to locate your policy and see what you are eligible to claim for. Most people are unaware of their entitlements and the different categories of cover. For example, you may be able to claim the costs of workers needed to help in your recovery or you could be entitled to temporary housing.
  2. It is important that if you cannot locate your policies, you request them from your broker or insurer in written form. It is worth noting that your broker is paid by the insurance companies.
  3. The next step is to gather as much information as possible about the damage to your property. In order to provide evidence of this, the information should include photographs of your property before and after the disaster and documents entailing any work done to improve your home over the years. These documents should include engineering reports and information about your loss from your insurance company.
  4. You should then make an inventory of all possessions that were damaged and where possible, find receipts and bank statements as further evidence.
  5. Residents must be mindful of claiming damages that are purely cosmetic, because if the damage is more than cosmetic and you do not receive the full repairs or replacement now, you will be prohibited from doing so in the future. Insurance companies will not pay for hidden damages that were later discovered.
  6. Remember to come forward and tell your insurer if your current state of housing in unsafe as you could be entitled to recover the costs of temporary housing.
  7. It is important that you are aware that your insurer can deny a claim for unauthorised work, so you should speak with a specialist before agreeing to any repairs.
  8. For any water or mud-damaged items that pose a health risk, you are able to remove or discard them. However, before doing so, ensure you take photos and keep sample materials and fabrics to justify your claims and show your assessor.
  9. Once you have spoken with your insurer, it is important that you don’t accept their first offer of settlement, especially if it leaves you short. If you are unhappy with your insurer’s response, contact your broker or legal professional for further advice.
  10. Do NOT sign a release or acknowledge that any work is satisfactorily completed without speaking to an expert.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: March 12, 2015.

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