This week has seen parts of Gauteng and Bloemfontein hit by severe storms. These have had devastating impacts, including the death of several people. Property and vehicles have been damaged, and in some cases destroyed.
The damaged caused by the storms and flooding has seen a surge in insurance claims. Natasha Kawulesar, head of client relations at OUTsurance, said: “Due to the higher than normal volume of claims, it is difficult to commit to a time frame. We do have additional processes in place to ensure that our clients are assisted in the shortest possible time, such as our staff and service providers that work longer hours to be able deal with the claims effectively.”
What will insurance companies do?
If your home has been flooded or damaged by the storm, it is important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Kawulesar stated: “We understand the discomfort and inconvenience experienced where our clients’ homes are damaged by the storms especially to the extent that they aren’t able to live in their home. Our clients should contact us as soon as possible so we may assess the damages and assist in making the home habitable and comfortable for them. Where the home is uninhabitable we will arrange temporary accommodation for our clients until the home is repaired to the extent that they may reside in it again.”
If your vehicle was damaged in the flooding, Kawulesar noted that the normal claims process relating to vehicle damage would apply. OUTsurance will register the claim and assess the damages. “Once the vehicle has been assessed we would know if it is repairable in which case one of our service providers would be appointed to assist with the repairs. If the car is not repairable we would write off the car.
“Being trapped in the car with flooding occurring is a traumatic experience, we ensure that our claims process is efficient and effective so our client does not need to experience any further trauma.”
Your insurance company might not pay out
While you may believe that having insurance will offer you piece of mind and relieve some of the burden if your home or vehicle is damaged due to the storms, that may not necessarily be the case. Gavin Commins, CEO of The Valuator Group who specialise in property and asset valuations, warned that insurance companies are tightening their reins on improperly valued assets.
With regards to the flooding, The Valuator Group noted: “Physical damage to cars and property is evident and the financial implications for short term insurance policy owners can be far-reaching as the industry receives a flood of claims, which are often not easily accepted or approved.”
If the valuations on your insured items is not accurate, you may run into difficulties when you try to claim. Commins said: “We’ve noticed a definite upswing in the need for independent professional valuations. Independent valuations lend assurance and peace of mind to insured parties and insurers. For the policy owner, knowing that your assets are covered to their fair value is imperative. Short-term insurers will apply the Average Clause if assets are undervalued which could have disastrous financial consequences for clients. One should never under-insure valuables in order to lower premiums; it just doesn’t pay in the long run.”
If you are unsure what your assets are worth you could hire the services of a professional assessment team. They will help you identify the risk areas of your property, be it your house or business, and implement suitable risk prevention measures.
Furthermore, Commins suggested checking your insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for storm and hail damage. While you may think this is standard cover, it is sometimes excluded from insurance policies.
Driving safely in severe weather
If you are planning to travel during a storm, or there are warnings of severe weather, it is important to take note of a few safety measures. Kawulesar stressed: “We are experiencing erratic weather patterns and try to alert our clients to possible storms with storm warning alerts. They should take heed of these alerts and plan their driving trips accordingly where possible.”
The Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) offered the following tips to help you navigate flooded roads:
- Obey authorities and emergency personnel who tell you to avoid driving on a specific road. If a road has been closed, obey the closure, and drive the alternative route.
- Do not try and cross a body of water, even if you believe you can make it, as the water may be deeper than you think, and the road may have eroded since you last used it.
- If there is a risk you will be caught in a flood, pull off the road and look for higher ground.
- If you do pull off, make sure you leave enough space for emergency vehicles to pass you.
- If you have no alternative but to drive through a body of water, drive as slow as possible in first gear with both hands on the steering wheel. This will give your car the necessary traction to move forward. Driving fast may result in aquaplaning.
- Ensure you are as visible as possible. Switch on your headlights.
- If your car is being surrounded by water, unfasten your seatbelt (and those of any children with you), unlock your doors, and open your windows. If water starts entering through the windows, get out of the vehicle and wade to the nearest point of safer higher ground.
- If your car is suddenly submerged and your windows aren’t already open, try and break a window and swim to the nearest point of safety.
- If you are caught in a flood, be patient and remain calm. Emergency services will get you but there may be delays as they have to negotiate the same hazards.
- Be especially cautious at night, or when visibility is low, as it may be harder to see floods ahead.
“On days when the weather is heavy, motorists should listen to local radio traffic reports, monitor social media, and check online websites for advisories and cautions. If roads on your normal route are flooded, avoid them and seek alternatives, even if it means you will take a lot longer to get to your destination,” the AA added.
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