Claiming insurance for a catastrophic event

Claiming insurance for a catastrophic event

21 April 2021

Cyclone Seroja made landfall on April 11. The cyclone severely damaged 170 homes and businesses, communications, and road infrastructure across a number of West Australian communities. The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has made an initial estimate for the damage bill to reach $200 million. However, power is still unavailable to some of the more remote communities north of Geraldton and in the mid-west making it impossible to gauge the real extent of the damage caused by this cyclone.

This is the third catastrophic event in 2021 as declared by the Insurance Council of Australia, following the fires in our Perth Hills, and the floods in NSW and south east Queensland. Estimated losses from these first two events stand at $685 million.

So what should you do after a catastrophic event when you return to your home or business?

The following list is from the Insurance Council of Australia and is an excellent checklist.

  • Safety is the priority - don’t do anything that puts anyone at risk.
  • Only return to your property when emergency services give the go ahead.
  • Stay away from downed power lines, poles and wires, and fallen trees.
  • Check your home or business premises for damage. If your home is unsafe, notify your local emergency services and check with your insurance company if you can claim temporary housing expenses.
  • If water has entered the property, don't turn on your electricity until it has been inspected by an electrician.
  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to lodge a claim and seek guidance on the claims process.
  • Start the clean-up but first take pictures or videos of damage to the property and possessions as evidence for your claim.
  • Keep samples of materials and fabrics to show your insurance assessor.
  • Remove water damaged goods from your property that might pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings.
  • Make a list of each item damaged and include a detailed description, such as brand, model and serial number if possible – this is where your asset register becomes invaluable.
  • Store damaged or destroyed items somewhere safe.
  • Speak to your insurer before you attempt or authorise any building work, including emergency repairs, and ask for the insurer’s permission in writing. Unauthorised work may not be covered by your policy.
  • Do not throw away goods that could be salvaged or repaired.
  • Check your contents policy for food spoilage cover, you may be able to make a claim due to power outage.