In the wake of the devastating bushfires in NSW, Australians are forced to ask themselves, “is my house and contents protected in the event of a disaster?”
If you have insurance, the damages and losses resulting from bushfires may be recoverable. However, this is dependant on what type of insurance you have, and the extent of that cover.
What type of insurance should I have?
When considering what type of insurance to use, you should consider what it is that you are trying to protect. For example, Home Building Insurance covers you for any destruction or damage to a building, whilst Home Contents Insurance covers any damage to personal belongings and household possessions.
If you think you may have insurance but cannot remember which company it is with, you can ring the Insurance Council of Australia on 1300 728 228. In the event of a large-scale disaster, there is usually also a dedicated Catastrophe Hotline created to assist policyholders if they are uncertain of their insurance details or have general inquiries about the claims process. For those affected by the NSW Bushfires, you can access the hotline on 1800 734 621.
Does my insurance policy cover me?
Insurance policies vary in wording from policy to policy as to the types of risks or insured events they will cover, and what events or losses are excluded. For example, some policies may not insure properties that have been damaged where a person or entity is found to be responsible for starting the fire which lead to the bushfire. It is important that you read your policy and understand what you are covered for. This will ensure that you get all of the benefits you are entitled to.
Many policies also impose a general obligation on the policy holder to take reasonable precautionary measures to prevent loss. For example, clearing your gutters to reduce the risk of leaves in the gutter catching fire from embers carried by the wind.
Things to check for in your policy.
In relation to the extent of bushfire cover, some insurance policies include the following limitations:
- Have an embargo or time delay after you’ve entered into the insurance contact for the policy to take effect. Generally, bushfires within the first 48 or 72 hours of you first taking out the policy are not covered;
- Exclude cover for any damage caused by scorching, burn marks or melting are not covered where there has been no flame, or where there was no burning building within 10 metres of your home; or
- Limit cover where you have not taken adequate precautions to prevent damage or loss.
What should I do to ensure I am covered?
If your property and contents are insured, your insurer may still refuse to pay any claim made. In order to ensure that this does not happen to you, follow these steps:
- Contact your insurers and notify them about your claim.
- Take photographs of any damaged items and make an inventory of your losses.
- Do not dispose of any items unless hazardous. Where you do dispose of an asset, document everything and try to get the insurer’s consent.
- Take reasonable steps to minimise your loss, such as, securing your contents by erecting a temporary shelter over them. Try and document this with photos, invoices and any other evidence.
- Seek independent legal advice when entering into an insurance policy in order to ensure that you are protected by your policy.
If you would like to seek further information in relation to the above, or need help with an insurance claim, please do not hesitate to contact our helpful team at Freedman & Gopalan Solicitors, and we will be happy to assist you.