The recent storm to hit Ireland – Storm Ali, on 19th September 2018 was as severe as Storm Ophelia in October 2017 – which brought the country to a standstill. Storm Ophelia was classified as a Status Red by Met Eireann. In the end whilst it caused damage to property and brought trees down, the effects were not as severe as predicted.
Storm Ali was classified as a Status Orange by Met Eireann, but by the time it hit the west coast of Ireland and passed over the country the gust were as strong and in many cases stronger than that experienced during Storm Ophelia.
There were two other major differences – in October there was very little growth left on the trees and thus the wind brought down fewer trees. Conversely, this week there was very little rainfall, thus the impact was confined to wind with little or no rain adding to the impact. It is also possible that the summer drought weakened root structures.
Storm damage to buildings require professional assessment and negotiation under the terms of an insurance policy to ensure a full indemnity is secured to enable reinstatement to be undertaken. We have experienced many instances where old Blue Bangor slates are ripped off roofs only for the insurer to seek to avoid paying for a full repair because of wear and tear on the slates or the fixings. In other cases they did not want to allow for the cost to strip the roof covering off to fit new battens and felt to comply with current building regulations. For some farm or industrial buildings with corrugated metal or asbestos sheets being damaged they can expect the property owner to accept a ‘patch repair’. We have experienced instances where the insurer/loss adjusters engage an engineer to help them avoid paying for a proper reinstatement using ‘evidence’ found by their engineer to undermine the pre-existing condition of the roof.
All of these tactics overlook the fact that most policies are on a reinstatement “new for old” basis. Most policies also include the cost of complying with Local Authority requirements. The premiums of the many are there to pay for the losses of the few.
We can usually successfully argue the case for proper reinstatement to be fully paid for. However, we do have to question why an adversarial approach to minimise or avoid paying for property damage in Ireland seems to be more heavy handed than that taken by their counterparts in other jurisdictions. Most of the insurance companies operating in Ireland are part of multi-national Insurers. Is it that the local Management and claims handlers want to achieve maximum savings to impress their Directors and shareholders? It is time to treat customers fairly, and deal with property damage sustained as a result of an insured peril, in good faith.