Need To Claim Flood Damage for Your Business? Use These Tips
The recent NSW and Queensland floods have been extreme and will occur more frequently as our planet warms, according to experts writing for The Conversation.
Overview: the far-reaching impacts of the floods
But it’s not all about climate change. We’re also at the tail end of a La Nina weather pattern, and there was another influence, an ‘atmospheric river’ sitting atop the region for days. The Bureau of Meteorology describes these natural formations as streams of very moist air from the tropics.
The Conversation’s experts expect the effects of climate change will double the number of long-lasting atmospheric rivers over Sydney.
We will need to take flood impacts into account where, how and when we build new housing and infrastructure. That’s because, across much of NSW, surface runoff will increase from now, says AdaptNSW in its report, Hydrology: Climate Change Impact Snapshot. Meanwhile, Queensland also needs to work more on water modelling going by this snapshot the state government released last year.
In numbers: the predicted financial toll
The figures for the financial fallout of the recent floods in NSW and South-East Queensland are ongoing as we write this.
But by 7 March, insurers had received more than 86,700 claims, with more than two-thirds from Queensland, according to the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA). About eight in ten claims overall concerned property, the rest were for motor vehicles. At this time, the ICA estimated the claims totalled about $1.3 billion. It’s officially an insurance catastrophe.
How to claim flood damage
Be mindful of how your insurance policy defines flood, storm, runoff and rainwater damage. The most commonly accepted definition is:
The covering of normally dry land by water that has escaped or been released from the normal confines of:
Any lake, or any river, creek or other natural watercourse, whether or not altered or modified, or any reservoir, canal or dam.
We can help you understand these definitions. As well, depending on how you’ve been affected, your coverage may come into play under different insurance policies you already hold:
- A home and contents insurance policy may cover you for flood damage, but some only offer it as an extra for a higher premium
- You may be able to claim under your motor vehicle insurance for accidental loss or damage due to flooding
- Your commercial property insurance may provide cover for flood damage to your business premises
As well, one of your policies (such as your home building or renters insurance policy) may cover the cost of emergency accommodation if your home is uninhabitable. You may also be entitled to an urgent financial payment if you are experiencing financial hardship.
If the worst happens, and you suffer flood damage, follow these tips to make a claim, once you’re safe, of course:
- Take photos or videos of the damage (from a few angles) to your property and possessions as evidence
- Keep samples of fabrics and materials for your insurance assessor (this is not required if your property is a total loss for home buildings and contents)
- Remove water-damaged items including waterlogged carpets and soft furnishings if they pose a health risk
- Retain goods that you can salvage or repair
- Minimise your losses by moving items higher and/or under shelter
- Keep evidence of any directives from your local council or local emergencies during the flood
- Don’t turn the electricity on until an electrician has inspected your property
- Lodge a claim immediately and be guided by what the insurers advise you to do
However, where a property has been inundated by floodwaters, it is best to vacate the site and allow the insurer’s experts to conduct tests to ensure the premises are safe before anyone enters the site.
What happens next
After we’ve lodged your claim with the insurer on your behalf, they will appoint experts to ensure the property is safe, ‘make safe repairs’ including pathogen testing, removal of asbestos, stripping of material that could lead to mould etc before a loss adjuster will attend the premises. This is dependent on the extent of flood damage. Should the insurer accept your claim, they’ll organise an expert to list and cost the repairs needed. You may submit quotes from a repairer, too, but it could be rejected if the insurer’s repairer is cheaper.
You may think insurers expect you to list each damaged item, offer a description, the brand, serial number and model. That may be unreasonable in the circumstances. Therefore, in many cases of total destruction, insurers may offer a cash settlement up to the sum insured under the policy. They’ll have compared your claim amount with the average for the size of your family, plus your home’s size and value, for example.
If your home building, contents or motor vehicle was damaged and insurers decide to settle through a cash payment they must provide you with a Cash Settlement Fact Sheet before making a cash payment offer. This Fact Sheet provides you with important information on your rights and options.
Remember, each claim is unique and we can guide you through claiming flood damage.