It is that magical time of year when you start to see scatterings of Christmas appearing. Christmas carols, glitter and tinsel, fairy lights and Santa Clause. However, as we live in this beautiful country called Australia, the magic of a summer Christmas also brings a halo of anxiety about extreme weather. Between the carols on the radio, advertisers warn you about preparing for storm season and how to protect your homes from bushfire. Take heed, as extreme weather conditions and the recent fires and floods change the insurance game.
The Australian bush fire disaster last year resulted in 38,416 related insurance claims estimated at a value of $2.33 billion. Add on top of this claims relating to the floods and also the ongoing global pandemic and we can start to predict what this will mean in the insurance world, namely restrictions on insurers appetite for risk, carefully worded policies and an overall increase in the cost of premiums. Insurance can be a tricky landscape to navigate, especially if you are unfamiliar with how the industry works. However, luckily for you, our team come with extensive experience and knowledge when talking all things insurance and we have answered some frequently asked questions to help you feel more confident coming into summer and the storm season.
What exactly can we expect for summer this year?
You may have heard the weather forecast recently predicting a ‘La Nina’ weather pattern emerging for Australia. We are not meteorologists, but what we understand is that La Nina indicates we can expect a lot of rain. The last time Australia experienced a La Nina was in 2010-11 which was also recorded as Australia’s wettest 2-year period and was the year we saw tropical cyclone Yasi pummel North Queensland.
Reports are suggesting we can expect a 66% higher chance of tropical storms and cyclones as well as a higher occurrence of floods, damaging winds and widespread rainfall. Although it may be a relief to hear that bush-fire threat may be heavily reduced by the wetter conditions, a La Nina weather pattern usually occurs later in the year extending into January, so in the lead up to Christmas we should still maintain awareness around bush-fire risk as well. It is suggested that it is unlikely fires will be anything like what Australia experienced last year, however it is important not to neglect your bush-fire protection plan on account of a predicted wetter summer.
Are there any loopholes in policy wordings we should look out for?
The short answer here is yes, policy wordings are very specific documents that detail the terms and conditions of insurance coverage. These documents are very precise and clear as any ambiguity in the wording can be construed against the insurer in case of a dispute.
Insurers have a lot of experience in this area and sometimes this can mean that non-insurance professionals may accidently overlook key elements in a policy wording which may result in a rejected claim.
A common example is policies not covering hail or storm damage to greenhouses, netting, shade sails or solar panels, as sometimes these are excluded under the definitions section of policies.
Your policy will always list events that are covered, or are excluded, but be mindful that some go on to remove or include additional covers under this same section. It pays to read your policy wording carefully and speak to an insurance broker to guide you if you are unsure.
Should I protect my car for weather damage and hail?
Yes, you absolutely should ensure your car is protected with a comprehensive motor vehicle insurance policy, providing cover for not only accidents and theft, but also against weather events such as storm and hail damage. Hail damage is one of the most claimed motor vehicle incidents, with many vehicles written off as a total loss due to the repair costs following such an event.
Also consider how tools and other equipment you may carry with you on a daily basis are covered, as these may not be automatically insured under your vehicle or home policy, but can easily sustain storm damage and require replacement.
What about my home being damaged by storm, flood or rainwater runoff?
Many people are taking advantage of recent government boosts to renovate their homes, but are you aware that if you sustain storm damage from an external opening made for renovations that you may not be insured? It is important to check your policy wording and speak with your builder regarding any cover that their contract works insurance may provide. The most important factor is to always ensure your home is secure to prevent damage.
The difference between storm or rainwater runoff and flood is as follows: Damage caused by the water falling from the sky is defined as storm damage or rainwater runoff. However, if the damage is caused by the rising of a body of water to inundate naturally dry land (i.e. rising river, creek, or dam) this is defined as flood. When it comes to business insurance, it is recommended that you review your risk of flood exposure (for example, if you are close to a water way and what the potential for flooding is in the vicinity) to ascertain if it’s worth investing in a flood cover extension.
The first thing to remember in the event of any storm damage is to ensure everyone is safe. Next check the building and try to minimise any further loss, for example covering any broken windows or calling the SES to tarp hail damaged roof tiles.
What if my business income is affected by storm?
If you suffer a physical loss to your business contents, stock or building which in turn results in a loss of income due to closure, you may be eligible to claim under the Business Interruption section of your policy (if you have selected and paid for this cover). Some comprehensive policies may also provide cover for prevention of access even if you haven’t directly experienced property damage.
Imagine a storm damages the roof of your retail clothing store, soaking your stock and ruining your point of sale equipment. Your property insurance can replace those items, but how will you manage with doors closed until the damage is fixed and your new stock arrives? Business Interruption remains one of the most important covers to consider and also one of the least purchased, with 60% of businesses overlooking this vital insurance.
Summertime can be fraught with extra risk due to storm season, and you can be sure that the insurance industry has learnt from their mistakes over the years when it comes to writing policy. Make sure you are appropriately covered by ensuring the risks to your business or home have been accurately audited. If you feel unsure about anything we have discussed, our team offer free risk assessments to guide you.
You can contact our team by phone, email, or social media.
Important Note: All insurance policies have exclusions. Please refer to the Product Disclosure Statement or Policy Wording to decide whether an insurance policy meets your needs.