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Insurance Claims: What steps should you take in a property emergency?

By Renee Cassidy on

The recent flooding in NSW and QLD, plus a late season cyclone in WA, are stark reminders that wild weather events are occurring with greater frequency and increasing severity. In light of this, it is important to know what to do in a property claims emergency for both your business and your home.

Having a clear process to follow will help ensure you achieve the best possible outcome in what is a highly stressful situation, where decision making can be clouded.

This article covers:

  • Insurance as a strong foundation
  • First steps to take following property damage
  • Returning to the premises safely
  • Notifying your insurance broker
  • Lodging a claim
  • What changes when a natural catastrophe is declared?
  • The benefit of having an insurance broker to support you

1. Make sure you’ve laid quality foundations in the form of your insurance policy coverage

Property damage to either your home or business can be caused by a number of events, from fire to floods, earthquakes and storm damage. Many of these ‘perils’ can be covered by a property insurance policy. Doing the right ‘pre-work’ by having a quality insurance policy with suitable coverage according to your risk exposures and circumstances can go a long way to protect you in a claim.

Tip: Before you’re faced with property damage, make sure you’re clear on what your insurance policy does and doesn’t cover, and that you are comfortable with your level of coverage. This will help ensure there are no surprises in a crisis. If unsure, speak to your Whitbread broker who can assist with advice, questions, and additional coverage needs.

2. First steps in a claims emergency

The most important first step is to prevent further damage from occurring as best as possible.

Emergency services

Depending on the situation in the first instance, you may need to contact emergency services to assist e.g. fire services or the SES.

Emergency Make-safe repairs

If it is safe to do so, you should engage professional services to perform temporary ‘make safe’ repairs to the site of damage. This can help limit further damage. It may involve electrical repairs, or even be as simple as placing a tarpaulin over an area of the roof which has been damaged so that when it rains, resultant water damage is less likely to occur inside your home.

If you can’t get hold of your insurance company or broker to ask for advice, don’t wait to speak to them.

If you find yourself in trouble outside of business hours and need emergency repairs, the SES, or relevant after-hours tradespeople should be your go-to.

Note: Bear in mind the insurer will need to review any reports / costs submitted before confirming if make safe repairs are claimable under the relevant policy. If it is not approved, you may be responsible for associated callout fees & repairs applicable.

Emergency / temporary accommodation

If your insured property is your place of primary residence, there may be a need for temporary accommodation to be arranged where damage has rendered the property uninhabitable.

Generally, Home and Contents, and Contents Insurance policies have an allowance for emergency and temporary accommodation costs.

If you have one of these policies in place, it is outside business hours, and you desperately need to arrange emergency accommodation, don’t wait for formal approval from the insurance company. Most policies will have a nominal amount available for emergency accommodation while you wait for temporary accommodation to be approved (refer to your policy wording for the exact emergency accommodation allowance that applies to you). The insurer will reimburse you for the emergency accommodation costs up to the limit in the policy following their review and confirmation that these costs are accepted.

3. Returning home checklist & notifying your broker / insurer

a) When returning to your premises, it’s important to do a comprehensive check of the property and your belongings, reporting any damage to the appropriate insurer. When checking your property, refer to the Returning to Property Checklist. On some occasions when damage is severe, a professional claims assessor may attend the property.

b) When notifying your insurer of damage, use the below as a guide on which to contact:

 

4. Lodging a claim

 In order to report and lodge a claim you can reach out to us through several avenues:

  • Contact your broker directly via phone or email
  • Call our office on 1300 424 627 – this may be your preferred option in an emergency
  • Email our claims team – claims@whitbread.com.au
  • Fill in our online claim formclick here to access

Generally we will need the following information to lodge your claim:

  • Your Whitbread Client Reference Number
  • Insured name
  • Date of Loss
  • Address of affected property (particularly where there is more than one listed on your schedule of insurance)
  • Details of the damage and whether you require your insurer to appoint an assessor and/or repairer
  • Quotes and invoices (if available)

We will be in contact with you as soon as possible to confirm details, assessment, repairs and next steps.

Once your claim is lodged, the insurance company will then allocate an assessor and / or builder / contractor to come out, evaluate the damage and arrange for permanent repairs as soon as possible. If you have an insurance broker, they will manage this process on your behalf.

Has a catastrophe been declared?

After very severe disasters that cause serious and widespread damage, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) can declare a catastrophe. But what does catastrophe mean in the context of your insurance?

As part of the ICA’s Catastrophe Declaration, the regulator expects insurers to prioritise affected policyholders. This generally means that:

  • Insurers will prioritise claims from policyholders affected by the catastrophe in question.
  • Claims will be triaged to direct urgent assistance to the worst-affected property owners.
  • ICA representatives will work with local agencies and services and affected policyholders as soon as emergency services declare it is safe to do so.
  • Insurers will mobilise disaster response specialists to assist affected customers with claims and assessments as soon as emergency services give the all clear, and it is safe to do so.
  • The ICA will establish a taskforce to identify and address issues arising from the catastrophe.

How can an insurance broker help you rest easy?

Often in times of catastrophe, insurers are inundated with claims – this is where a broker can truly support you and set your mind at ease.

  • An insurance broker will ensure that your claim is handled and dealt with as efficiently as possible by the insurer, to reach the best possible outcome.
  • An insurance broker can provide you with advice on what to do. Insurers will be communicating with brokers, and will send important information in times of catastrophes.
  • You won’t spend hours on hold – you will be able to speak to an expert insurance and claims advisor when you need it most.
  • Your claims advisor and account manager can hold your hand and provide advice throughout the entire claims process, to ensure things are settled as quickly and smoothly as possible.
  • Brokers can clarify complexities and answer all of your questions.

Whitbread clients can be assured that we will work hard to ensure your claims run smoothly, offering assistance and support wherever possible.

Please contact our office if you require any further assistance, or have any queries. Our team are here for you to achieve the best possible outcome.

E info@whitbread.com.au        T 1300 424 627 

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This insight article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of personal advice.  Please contact Whitbread Associates Pty Ltd ABN 69 005 490 228 Licence Number: 229092 trading as Whitbread Insurance Brokers for further information or refer to our website.

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Renee Cassidy

The recent flooding in NSW and QLD, plus a late season cyclone in WA, are stark reminders that wild weather events are occurring with greater frequency and increasing severity. In light of this, it is important to know what to do in a property claims emergency for both your business and your home.

Having a clear process to follow will help ensure you achieve the best possible outcome in what is a highly stressful situation, where decision making can be clouded.

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