With mini tornados, flash flooding and strong winds hitting parts of New South Wales overnight and more severe weather expected, uncertainty remains over how those affected will recover their insurance entitlements for the damages they sustained to homes and businesses. It’s not uncommon for insurance claims to be rejected or for claims to be delayed during what is often a very difficult time for those affected by the storms.
Shine Lawyers Disaster Recovery team have put together 9 top tips to help those affected by the New South Wales storms recover their full insurance entitlements.
- Find your insurance policy and review what you can claim. There are many categories of cover that most people are unaware of i.e. you could be entitled to temporary housing or you could be able to recover the costs of an accountant, a builder, quantity surveyor or a loss adjuster assisting you to put your claim together. If you don’t have copies of your policy you should be able to request them from your broker or the insurer directly. Always document your request in writing and keep in mind that the broker is paid by the insurance companies.
- Gather as much information as possible about the damage to your property. This should include photographs of your property before and after the loss, information about work done to improve your home over the years, including engineering reports and any information you might have received from the insurance company about your loss.
- Make an inventory of damaged possessions and, if possible, find receipts or bank statements to back the inventory up.
- Be very careful about concluding that damage is purely cosmetic. If the damage is more than cosmetic and you do not receive the full repairs or replacement now, you will be precluded from doing so in the future as the insurance company will not pay for hidden damage that was later discovered.
- If your home is unsafe and you have to find alternative accommodation, remember that you could be entitled to recover the costs of temporary housing.
- Always speak to an expert before going ahead with any repairs as your insurer might try to deny a claim for unauthorised work.
- When it comes to cleaning up the premises, you can remove and discard any water or mud-damaged goods that pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets or soft furnishings, but always make sure you take photos and keep samples of materials and fabrics to show the assessor and justify your claim.
- Don’t just accept your insurer’s first offer of settlement, especially if it leaves you short. Insurers have been known to try and minimise their losses. Call your broker or a legal professional if you aren’t happy with your insurer’s response. You do have remedies, including alternative dispute resolution without the need to go to court.
- Do NOT sign a release or acknowledge that any work is satisfactorily completed without speaking to a specialist.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: August 24, 2015.