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INSURANCE CLAIMS ARE FLOODING IN...

Updated: Feb 26

In the news this week are the devastating floods that hit KwaZulu-Natal after the heavy downpours continued from the weekend into Monday. Rivers have overflown, properties have been damaged, cars have been swept away, and landslides are taking homes completely away with them. Changing weather patterns have short-term insurance claims flooding in, including damages to houses, vehicles, and businesses.

With higher and more volatile weather-related insurance claims happening this year, especially during this week, we look at weather damage and why having the right short-term insurance cover is so important.

African floods

THE GLOBAL WEATHER PHENOMENON

A global weather phenomenon known as La Niña has wreaked havoc across South Africa, bringing higher than expected rainfall and floods to Gauteng, central SA, KwaZulu-Natal, and other parts of the country this year. Unfortunately, the experts say it is expected to continue bringing disruptive rain.

Flooding can happen anywhere during the summer months and, as we are experiencing, is not always linked to the rainy season. Floods can occur as a result of other weather phenomena, particularly in coastal areas where sea surges can coincide with higher than normal water levels in rivers. While La Niña has been cited as a global weather phenomenon, it is happening against the backdrop of climate change, which is touted to bring catastrophic consequences. The excessive amounts of rainfall KwaZulu-Natal are experiencing has since been upgraded to a subtropical depression, with the weather system being named Issa.

Floods and hail are the biggest weather risks for South Africans, and with prolonged wetter periods, insurers and homeowners are wondering how to best manage these risks in 2022. It is better to be prepared for the risk, whether or not it happens. Many citizens and business owners in KwaZulu-Natal did not know about the fury of floods headed their way. All that is left now is to deal with the severe consequences, which many may never recover from if they didn't have the right risk cover in place. So, how do you prepare for weather-related damage to your personal property?

Subtropical storm issa











HAVE THE RIGHT SHORT-TERM INSURANCE COVER IN PLACE

Homeowners, vehicle owners, and business owners should take out insurance cover against the increased risk of weather-related damages to their property and assets. You should familiarize yourself with the dangers associated with changing weather patterns and extreme weather events and then take the right action to help mitigate the risks by ensuring your policies make provision for the possible claims associated with the damages.

Sometimes, adequate cover for floods may be excluded by the wording in your policy documents, or your existing cover is not high enough if you have a basic insurance policy in place, for instance, vehicle insurance that covers third-party damage only.

Assess and update the sum insured on your policies. Being underinsured if there is increased risk is a major reason why many policyholders end up being out of pocket. To ensure a successful claim, you must understand exactly what you are insured for. Always check with your broker or insurer what your policy excludes and the terms and conditions.


FLOODS AND HAIL STORMS: YOUR HOUSE AND HOUSEHOLD CONTENTS

Insurance cover for your house and household contents against weather-related damages and events (also called perils), including but not limited to flooding, wind, and hail, is usually standard on policies. However, some circumstances exist when claims are repudiated or paid out only partially, which are avoidable. A claim may be rejected for the following reasons:

  • Poor Maintenance: This is one of the most common reasons a claim is rejected. It is a general condition that policyholders must take all reasonable precautions to help prevent or minimize damage or loss to their properties. Upon receiving a claim, if an assessor finds out that your gutters and roof tiles, for example, were not properly maintained, thus exacerbating the damage, the claim could be rejected.

  • Poor Workmanship or Defective Design: If poor workmanship or a defective design is identified as a significant contributing factor to the damage, the assessor may reject your claim. An example is if a retaining wall is not built according to municipal regulations. Although the flood or excessive rain destroyed the wall, if it was poorly designed or constructed in the first place, it is unlikely that the insurer will payout.

The best way to avoid claim repudiation is to ensure you always undertake to do regular maintenance on your house and property. Always keep proof of all maintenance carried out, and if you do alterations to your home, ensure that the plans are legally approved, and the building is inspected according to municipal requirements.

  • Under-insured: You are covered only up to the amount you insure your items. Under-insurance is one of the largest reasons for claims being paid out only partly or completely rejected. For example, let's assume that the replacement value of your household contents is R800 000, but you insure them for R400 000, while the extent of your loss is R100 000. Once the assessor establishes that you are insured for only 50 percent of the actual value, only 50 percent of the claim will be paid out, which means you will receive only R50 000 to cover your loss in damages. Remember, you can insure your property for less than the replacement value, but the insurance company will only compensate you for the amount of insurance you have in place. Your household contents should also be insured at the correct replacement value. If you under-insure your valuable possessions because you want to lower your monthly premiums, it may cost you dearly when a claim arises.

  • Exclusions: Never assume your policy covers you for all perils. Some policies, unless you have specified hail damage, for example, won't cover you. Always read through your policy wordings and exclusions and adjust your policy accordingly if necessary. It is worth paying extra to include certain events on your policy; you will be grateful for doing this if you do have a claim one day. Some perils may also be subject to a higher excess in the event of a claim. For instance, if you live in an area prone to landslides and flooding, there may be a higher excess.

House on cliff

FLOODS AND HAIL STORMS: YOUR CAR

Comprehensive vehicle insurance typically covers loss or damage due to any accidental event, including hail, flood, and storm damage.

Several insurance companies have partnered with the SA Weather Service and send SMS warnings to their clients in areas where severe weather conditions are expected. Not acting on this warning won't necessarily result in a claim rejection, but it could save lives and save you the hassle of dealing with a damaged vehicle.

If you see the water rising on the road and there is excessive flooding, do not take the chance and try and drive your vehicle through the flooding roads. Instead, take a safer alternative route.

The following can lead to claim rejections:

  • Negligence: You must take all reasonable precautions to prevent or minimize loss and damage.

  • Under-insured: Your insurance should cover the true value of your car. If you are underinsured - which means that you are insured for a value that is lower than the total value of your vehicle- then your insurance may only pay out a representative portion of the costs of the damage.

  • Exclusions or Inadequate Cover: Your insurer may also reject your claim if your policy didn't include accidental events, including weather and flood damage. This could be the case if you do not have comprehensive cover.

  • Poorly Maintained Vehicle: If an assessor determines that your vehicle was poorly maintained before the damage occurred, your claim may be rejected.

Car accident in bush

THE BOTTOM LINE Storms like the ones we have seen over the past couple of days are an excellent reminder to us all to check whether our insurance policies are up to date and that they cover us for all eventualities. You should review your insurance policies annually and make sure all of your information is up to date and accurate. If you are buying a new policy, don't always go for the cheapest option either - make sure the saving isn't coming at the expense of a much-needed benefit! You could feel the effects of your decision if you need to submit a claim; it could be rejected or only partially paid out as a result. If you are uncertain about the cover of your current insurance policy or need to take out insurance cover, then contact Wallstreet Financial Services today. Wallstreet Financial Services is an authorized short-term personal and commercial lines provider working with most short-term insurance companies. With us, you don't need to change your insurance provider necessarily. We are brokers, and because we work with multiple insurance companies, we can go over your current short-term insurance arrangements and assist you where necessary.

April 13, 2022




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