Gorse fires and insurance

The news of wildfires that have broken out over various parts of Ireland over the past few Fire Engineweek should be of concern to all property owners.  We have seen news headlines of gorse fires and forest fires in Dublin, Wicklow, Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo and Roscommon and I’m sure there are many others.

The attched link from the Irish Times shows the extent of the Coilte forest fire in Cloosh Valley which has destroyed hundreds of acres of forest and is currently threatening wind farms and other property.

One family in Mayo lost their home last week when their thatched roof caught fire, completely destroying their house and possessions.   It reminded me of a thatched house fire that I dealt with several years ago from which I recorded a piece for TV. Click here to view it.

The news is a stark reminder to us all of the need to maintain property insurance cover, and to have adequate sums insured in place.

Fire is devastating, and can also result in death and injury so it is vital to treat it with the utmost respect and extreme caution.  Anyone who suffers damage to their property needs professional advice and assistance to file and negotiate their insurance claim. Independent representation will ensure a faster and better response, and will result in a better outcome.

It pays to have insurance, but it is essential to have independent experienced advice from someone on your side.

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Why using a Public Loss Assessor is the best option

PROPERTY CLAIMS
LOSS ASSESSOR DIRECT
KNOWLEDGE – We are experts in insurance policy wordings, what is covered and how the process works.

 

A Loss Adjuster acts for the Insurer – Claimants are vulnerable and unsure of the process or what they are entitled to claim for.
PAPERWORK – We compile all necessary documents, inventories and scope of work and prepare a complete bill of quantities and statement of claim.

 

Estimates for repair – You are asked to submit estimates for repair or replacement.  Policyholders have to ask contractors and suppliers to give written estimates to support their claim.
SPEED – We can immediately agree the scope of work and the extent of loss and damage with the Loss Adjuster and prepare and submit written statement of claim without delay.

 

Dependent on others – You are depending on various contractors and suppliers to send you  written estimates which you must compile and submit to the Loss Adjuster yourself.
QUESTIONS  – We have vast experience in property damage claims and how the process works.  We are best placed to answer all your questions in a pro-consumer manner.

 

Uncertainty – If you have any questions, who do you ask?  The Loss Adjuster is not impartial as they act for the Insurer.  They do not have the time or authority to offer truly independent advice.
ADVICE  – We can help with the practical steps needed to deal with any property damage situation e.g. temporary repairs, alternative accommodation, drying out, salvage etc.

 

Looking after the ‘day job’ – There are so many other things to take care of that you cannot dedicate the time to pursue the claim to the greatest effect.
NEGOTIATION – We are expert negotiators who are in a position to “level the playing field” on your behalf and counteract any unfair offers.

 

Vulnerable – Claimants are left to their own devices and very often will not know how to challenge or increase an initial settlement offer.  You are up against an authoritative loss adjuster who is expert in negotiation.
BEST SETTLEMENT – You will get the best settlement offer available within the terms of the policy.

 

Penny wise, pound foolish – Many claimants feel let down, disappointed and frustrated with the entire process.
SERVICE – you will get a professional service that will ensure you get through the process with the best settlement and the best level of support and service available. Handle the process – You have to ‘learn on the job’ or go with your instinct.  You may be left wondering how to bring the matter to a satisfactory conclusion.

 

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The changing landscape of property claims

The insurance market in Ireland is in a constant state of change.  Most of the changes over the period of the financial crisis in Ireland were not good for consumers. e.g. Insurers seeking to limit cover by restricting cover; imposing higher excesses; introduction of no-claims-bonus on property policies; imposing higher retentions on claims payouts etc.

The public are incredulous when they hear of large awards in courts for minor injuries, and rightly so.  We all feel that soft-tissue personal injury claims are fuelled by unscrupulous scam artists, aided and abetted by willing practitioners in the medical and legal professions.  No wonder the public trust with the insurance industry is so low.  All the resources of the industry should be put into defending against unreasonable awards.

Yet sometimes when property claims are being processed, there is a dis-proportionate adversarial position adopted by some loss adjusters and insurers.  We occasionaly get clients who cannot believe the difficult anti-consumer stance that can be adopted.  It is like there is a mind-set within some loss adjusters and claims department staff, that treats every claim as a fraudulent or exaggerated claim.  This should not be the position. Policyholders who have paid the premium and suffer damage should be treated with dignity, honesty and professional courtesy.  Unless there are blatant “red-flag” issues, their claim should be paid with good grace, and without undue delay.  There is no better advertisment than a happy claimant.

It is no wonder that so many policyholders and brokers are turning to Public Loss Assessors (PLA’s) to ensure they get specialist advice and assistance when they have a property claim.  If you had a fire in your property would you know where to start?  Would the average home or business owner know how to go about documenting their loss and damage?  Would they know what is damaged beyond repair and what is salvagable?  Would they know what steps to take to agree the scope of the loss with a loss adjuster who visits the property?  Would they know what documentation is required to prove the loss?

The Financial Regulator requires that claimants be advised that they can appoint their own loss assessor to represent their interests (at their own expense). For some, it is too late, as their claim can be declined on the initial telephone call.  For others it can be put to them in a way that deters them from engaging professional representation.  When you think about it, why should the insurance company have representation (and it paid for by the premiums of the many), and the policyholder has to fend for themselves, or else pay for their own representation?  It smacks of the deck being loaded against them; that “the house always wins”.

Brokers can ensure a level playing field by recommending to their clients the option of appointing a PLA.  Better still, they can sell cover for Loss Assessing services in addition to the property policy.  Balcombes property claims scheme is a valuable enhancement to any property policy.  In the event of a loss, the policyholder doesn’t have to worry about it costing them money.  They get professional advice and asssitance in compiling, submitting and negotiating their claim. One of our qualified and experienced Loss Assessors can meet the Insurer or their appointed representative on site and agree the scope of the claim.  Balcombes will deal with all the necessary paperwork and hassle that comes with negotiating a property damage claim.  There is no better peace of mind. KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

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Has Storm Doris Hit Your Property?

Storm Doris hit Ireland yesterday with average winds of between 65-80kph and gusts of up to 118kph.  This equates to 35-43 knots, with gusts of up to 63 knots.

Met Office Storm DorisMost buildings insurance policies cover storm damage.  Insurers use the Beaufort scale which categorises wind speed on a scale of zero to 12.  “Storm” is classified as force 10, which is defined as winds between 89-102kph or knots of 48-55.

So, there was certainly storm conditions within the terms of the policy for the duration of Storm Doris in Ireland.  There were a lot of trees brought down and widespread power cuts throught the country.

What to do if your home is affected?

There is an onus on you to protect your property from further damage. Your insurer may have an emergency helpline that will provide a response to get trademen for urgent repairs. You should take photographs of the damage so that you have proof of what happened.   Don’t be in a rush to throw away damaged items as they will be further proof of your loss, that can help validate your claim with your insurance company’s appointed loss adjuster.  Everything damaged will need to be itemised and costed.  You can engage a Pubic Loss Assessor to provide expert advice and assistance in handling the claim on your behalf.

Exclusions

Most policies exclude storm damage to gates and fences; but sheds and their contents will usually be covered as standard.

Motor & Liability Claims

If your car is damaged by a fallen tree, it will only generally be covered if you have Storm Doriscomprehensive cover on your motor vehicle.

If your property is damaged by your neighbour’s fallen tree, the best advice is to claim off your own policy; but it may be possisble to claim off your neighbour if there is any evidence that the tree was unsafe or unsound before the storm, and should have been taken down.  If your neighbour has a home insurance policy you may be able to claim off the liability section of their policy.

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God forbid your house goes on fire….

Every year thousands of homes are damaged by fire.  Everyone thinks it will never happen to them.  However it is clear that some of them are wrong, when it turns out that the dreaded event happens.  IMG_0732

Even when we are paying our insurance premium we think it will never happen to us.  Perhaps that is why a lot of people over the years of the recession reduced their sums insured to the bare minimum.  Big mistake. You may save a few Euros in premium, but you could lose thousands of Euros in deductions for underinsurance in

the event of a claim.  It’s just not worth it.

In the same way that a good Insurance Broker will help to get you the best policy and give you the best advice in relation to cover and premium, a Loss Assessor will get you the best settlement and give you the best advice on how to recover from a loss if the dreaded event happens to you.  Click here to view our Youtube video for more information.

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Happy Valentines Day

We would like to wish all our clients, supporters and staff a very Happy Valentine’s Day!Balcombes love property claims

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Rodents and Insurance Claims

During the winter months it is not uncommon for rats or mice to seek shelter from cold or wet weather and move indoors.  Very often they can survive on sources of food left unattended, or chew into food packets.  Rat

Vermin can live in attic spaces which are well ventilated and well insulated.  They can navigate their way through wall cavities and access ducts for pipework etc.

If rats or mice get desparate for nourishment they can chew into PVC pipes to get to a water source.  Such damage can start as a trickle but can quickly deteriorate to cause significant leaks.

In many household insurance policies there is an exclusion under the ‘accidental damage’ peril for “Damage caused by wear and tear or gradual deterioration, insects, vermin, corrosion, rot, mildew, any process of cleaning, dyeing, repairing  etc, electrical and mechanical breakdown or malfunction”. 

What many fail to understand is that the same policy covers a separate peril for “Escape or overflow of water from any fixed domestic water or heating installation”.  There is no such bitemarksexclusion for vermin under the escape of water peril. Therefore the standard household policy will cover the damage caused by the water, but not the cost of repairing the pipe (which is usually a small figure).  Some insurance company staff will decline a customers claim by quoting the exclusion mentioned above by simply saying the policy excludes loss or damage caused by “vermin”.  While this may be technically correct in respect of the damage to the pipe (in the same way that wear and tear on pipework is excluded), this is wrong in respect of the resultant water damage, which can be very significant and costly to repair.

If you have rats or mice in your premises you should take it very seriously.  Elimination requires dedication and persistence in setting traps and continuing to set traps for as long as it takes to be sure there are no further vermin present.  If you cannot stomach the task of setting traps and disposing of the dead mice or rats, you should call in a professional pest control company.

If you have a claim, you should call Balcombes!

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How to counter the Brexit effect in Property Claims

We live in uncertain times.  However, when stuff happens, we can be dealt a hand that throws us into confusion.  A fire in someone’s home or business can be devastating.  The immediate shock and panic can cause even the most sure-footed individuals to waver in their composure and some can become unsure and bewildered.

Concept image of a lost and confused signpost against a blue cloudy sky.

The Brexit effect

It is something that nobody plans for, and we all think will never happen to us.  Before long we realise “we need to get on with it” and make the best of a bad situation.

Like the Brexit vote, it can leave people feeling uncertain and confused.  It can leave a sense of economic vulnerability in negotiations between various parties, and can lead to uncertainty about the future.

You want your most experienced and best negotiators at the table to represent your best interests.  You want clarity over your situation and your future.  You have lots of questions and queries and unless you get answers you are in a vacuum. Confusion and doubt can creep in and cause even greater uncertainty.

People who suffer damage to their property are in a vulnerable position.  They are in uncharted waters.  They need advice and support from experienced claims experts.  They have never been in the situation before and have to learn as they go. They can feel intimidated and nervous talking to their Insurance Company or their appointed Loss Adjuster.  They can feel they are going to be skinned alive!

How to counter the Brexit effect in Property Claims?  Appoint Balcombes.

Balcombes have been dealing with property damage and business interruption claims in Ireland since 1971.  We have a team of experienced Loss Assessors who are familiar with insurance policy wordings, and are expert negotiators.  Our focus is on ensuring the best outcome for our clients.  We provide advice and support and answer any quesitions that are causing uncertainty.  By sharing our knowledge and experience, we bring clarity and confidence to empower our clients to move forward, to ensure a successful outcome, and a brighter future.

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We love claims

As long as there is insurance, there will always be claims.  However, there is much bad press and negative sentiment about claims.  Invariably they can often be protrayed as false, exagerated or fraudulent.  Every claim is treated with suspicion and looked at to see if it can be declined.  However, in over 40 years experience in dealing with property damage claims we could count on one hand the number of incidents that might fall into a fraudulent category, and we in Balcombes want nothing to do with such behaviours.

The fact is, the overwhelming majority of people are honest and straight-forward, and just want their loss and damage dealt with promptly and fairly under the terms of their policy.  Loss assessors help to do that.  We have a passion for seeing the unfortunate customer through the sometimes difficult process of dealing with a loss, and ensure they receive their maximum and rightful entitlement.  Fires can result in severe damage, loss of jobs and even loss of life. Balcombes love property claims

We hear some companies talking about catastophy losses, and even some adjusting firms have job titles like ‘major and complex loss adjuster’.  However for most claimants their claim is a ‘major and complex’ loss.  They have to learn the ropes and try and understand how the process works and what they are entitled to claim for, and what paperwork they need to produce to even submit their claim.  We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that dealing with highly educated and well versed claims adjusting staff is simple.  To use a medical analogy, Insurance Brokers are like GP’s.  Loss Assessors are like consultants.

Insurance companies exist to pay the claims of the few out of the premiums of the the many.  Individuals, businesses and the economy need that to continue so that we can function as a civilised society.

We have long maintained that the biggest issue for the solvency of Insurers is the cost of personal injury claims.  The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (now the Injuriesboard.ie) was set up to try and take on the legal costs of personal injury claims by offering a direct mechanism to claimants that did not require the involvement of Solicitors.  Limited success was had initilly, but most claimants still want to be represented by a Solicitor.  Why?  Because they feel initimidated and vulnerable when up against ‘the system’.

There was a new Book of Quantum issued in 2016, and despite the fact that it was 12 years since the previous one was introduced there was no logic in some of the guidance contained therein.  At a recent briefing by Michael Corrigan, Solicitor he points out that dispite the vast quantity of data available since the 2004 Book of Quantum was published, there is precious little guidance in relation to the correct value of soft tissue injuries which make up the majority of personal injury claims which are for whiplash type of neck and back injuries.  In addition, the bands of values are so broad as to be effectively worthless.  He gave an example of the guidance in relation to Crush injuries – Foot.  A minor injury is said to be worth between €12,800 and €40,900.  A moderate injury was worth between €14,500 and €73,900. The starting point for Severe and Permanent is €26,600 – which is significantly less than the upper limit for a Minor injury.

The Minister of State Eoghan Murphy TD is responsible for chairing a working group reviewing the cost of motor insurance and is said to be loooking at all the issues.  On a recent television programme he was reported to have said that by reducing fraud out of motor claims he was confident that €50 could be saved off every motor premium.  However, the cost of motor insurance for young drivers can be between €2,000 and €4,000 for those luck enough to get it.  Hardly a game changer!

The cost of motor insurance has been escalating in the past two years.  The instances of uninsured motorists on our roads is said to be increasing at an alarming rate.  The cost of claims resulting from uninsured motorists is passsed on to all of us, as awards are paid by the Motor Insurance Bureau, which is funded by all insurers.  The cost of awards for soft tissue injuries in Ireland is reported to be up to 5 times that in the UK and other European jurisdictions.

The minister could solve the crisis in the cost of motor insurance overnight by re-visiting the Book of Quantum immediately and slashing the cost of minor injuries.

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Black Friday

The Insurance Brain Drain.

There isn’t a week goes by without news of a loss adjuster leaving the insurance industry for alternative careers.  Some cannot stand the pressure of being answerable to too many masters.  The ever increasing compliance burden with more and more regulation.  Some have found that they no longer want to work for large organisations, or the corporate machine which has them running on a treadmill whilst trying to salvage some semblance of work-life balance.  This is especially so for those in mid-life trying to establish marriage, family and home, as well as their career.

Insurance Companies have put an ever increasing squeeze on Loss Adjusting firms to perform to greater demands with less authority and with regular audits to monitor standards.  They have pitted firms against each other to make them compete for the business and have used their large buying power to drive economies of scale. Loss adjusting companies, who used to get a large volume of small claims to deal with, are no longer getting adequate fee income.  They have had to cut their costs to survive.

More and more pressure is being piled onto a reducing number of loss adjusters. Building rates are going up in the market place.  Loss adjusters who used to say ‘that’s the agreed rates – we cannot pay any more than that’, realise that is not going to settle the claim any more.  But the situation now is so critical that loss adjusting firms who have lost experienced adjusters are relying on more and more ‘yellow pack’ insurer staff who do not have the depth of knowledge and expertise to make decisions.

During the recession, most insurers sought better and better deals from their suppliers.  At the same time they have increased policy excesses and introduced ‘no-claims-bonus’ incentives into household policies in order to reduce the number of claims.  They regularly withdraw flood cover and refuse to re-instate it even in areas that have had flood defence works carried out by the OPW.  Now they are increasing premiums, so hard pressed customers have to pay more premium for less protection.  Rates for various building repair works have been cut to unrealistic and uneconomic levels.  They now need to recognise that there is scarcity of building contractors.  Supply and demand, together with rates of  pay and inflation pressure is fueling building repair costs.

Insurers have slimmed down to try and regain profitability, but now they are having more and more cases being referred to them for decisions, and that causes delays and poor service.  What is it going to be like when the next weather event hits our country?  There simply will not be enough capacity there to offer a reasonable level of customer service.

The insurance industry “brain drain” has led to a shortage of skilled claims practitioners to serve the needs of policyholders.  The consumer needs to be put back at ‘front and centre’.  Insurers need to recoginise that there is a competitive advantage in treating customers fairly and delivering on the promise to pay own damage claims, in a prompt and efficent manner with “good grace”.    They need to Wow their own customers who suffer a property claim, to win back their confidence and trust.

The good news is there are many jobs and career opportunities opening up in the insurance industry.  They are there to be filled by young people who are tech-savvy and are willing to work hard and study for insurance qualifications.  People  who are friendly, personable, with good communication and negotiaation skills.

As careers go, there are many fields of business to to be enjoyed working in Insurance, e.g. sales, marketing, customer service, claims, accounting, legal, IT, human resources, etc etc.  There are a lot worse ways to make a living.  Every day is filled with new and exciting challenges, and no two cases are the same!  So it’s not all doom and gloom this Black Friday.  There is a bright future ahead and we have a lot to be thankful for.

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