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Expert advice on recovering your insurance entitlements following a disaster

5 minute read

Superannuation and disability insurance

It’s disheartening so many Australians are left out of pocket after natural disasters due to their insurance company not paying up. No-one ever thinks that it will happen to them, but all too often it does – and it’s not right.

Unfortunately it is all too common for Australians to be left relying on the good graces of the government to provide disaster funding.

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. Our Disaster Insurance Litigation expert Tracey Ryan shares some of her advice to ensure you recover the benefits you deserve and are entitled to, in the event the unthinkable happens.

1. Check your policy to review your entitlements

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.

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.

"Unfortunately it is all too common for Australians to be left relying on the good graces of the government to provide disaster funding."

Tracey Ryan

General Manager — Loss Recovery

2. Gather information about the damage to your property

If your current state of housing is unsafe, come forward and tell your insurer, as you could be entitled to recover the costs of temporary housing. 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.

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 if available.

You should then make an inventory of all possessions that were damaged and where possible, find receipts and bank statements as further evidence. Unfortunately, some of these are lost in the natural disaster such that electronic records are always useful to have.

3. Be mindful of cosmetic damage and unauthorised work

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 may be prohibited from doing so in the future. Insurance companies may not pay for hidden damages that were later discovered.

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. We often find people trying to repair things themselves to save money and this could impact any claim you may have.

4. Tips for settlement discussions with your insurer

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.

Do NOT sign a release or acknowledge that any work is satisfactorily completed without speaking to an expert. These documents can often have hidden clauses that may have a detrimental effect to you in the future.

Another area to be mindful of is the rapidly increasing costs of building services and materials, which have been amplified by COVID. What may seem like a reasonable settlement sum, may not be sufficient to cover repairs in 6 months' time, when you are able to actually source a builder to conduct your work. When there is a widespread natural disaster, these pressures again increase.

How Shine can help

We have helped hundreds of Australians to access their full insurance entitlements after they have been devastated by flood damage and other disasters. Our team of dedicated insurance lawyers fight to deliver the best possible outcome for our clients. Contact us today to find out how we can help with your disaster insurance claim.

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