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Sunday 21 October 2018

Advice: Dealing with the insurance fallout from Storm Emma

 

Corradooa near Virginia in Cavan during Storm Emma. Photo: Maxpix
Corradooa near Virginia in Cavan during Storm Emma. Photo: Maxpix

Theresa Murphy

The recent Storm Emma and the snows that came before and after are still visible in some corners of the country. They are a reminder of the weather-related difficulties that farmers have faced and continue to face.

Property owners need to consider their positions when it comes to insurance for damage caused by extreme weather and what they should do if they find themselves the unfortunate victim.

If as a result of the storm, a farmer has suffered damage to buildings or any other property, provided the customer has either storm or accidental damage cover in place on that building or item of farming equipment, then the claim will be assessed and deemed valid.

Flooding

Melting or thawing snow and ice can cause additional hazards such as flooding. For those concerned about the location of their property and its proximity to flooding, the first step is to assess whether there is a real risk of flooding in the future.

The Office of Public Works provides access to a database of areas which may be at risk of flooding.

It is worth logging on to floodmaps.ie to assess the likelihood of this issue in the future. If you feel your home or your property may be at risk of flooding, you should contact your home/property insurance broker/provider to find out what your current level of cover is for flooding.

You should check exactly what is covered - for example, if your home is flooded, will your policy pay for alternative accommodation while your home is being repaired?

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If you find that your neighbourhood is an area which is liable to flood, consulting your neighbours about a combined prevention effort in the event of flooding could prove useful.

Loss of profits

For those farmers who have had to move stock and effectively stop their farming enterprise as a result of extreme weather, you should consult your farm policy as some policies contain a 'loss of profits' or 'loss of business' provision that will allow you to claim for the suspension of your business for the relevant time.

This may be particularly relevant to dairy farmers who found themselves with full milk tanks and no means of having it collected. You should contact your insurance broker/provider to ascertain whether you have this cover included.

Getting Reinsured

For those living in areas with a high risk of flooding, you will be accustomed to the fact that many insurance companies will not even provide a quotation for this type of insurance cover.

Also, if your property is flooded as a result of a freak incident and would not normally be liable to flooding and you have to make a claim on your policy, you are not likely to be able to obtain insurance when your policy expires.

At present there is very little that people can do about this other than to take precautionary measures when they are carrying out repairs to try to keep the cost of a future flooding to a minimum. This will do little to put minds at ease.

Making a claim

It is essential to keep receipts for all expenditure on the repair works, but also for expenditure associated with the inconvenience.

The loss adjuster/assessor sent out by the insurance company is being paid by the insurance company and will inevitably assess the cost of repair at the lowest possible cost to the insurance company.

As the insured person, if the damage to your property is significant, you may want to consider bringing in your own expert to ensure that you will have accurate figures to put forward to the insurance company.

Most insurance policies will not cover the cost of this independent expert, but if the claim proceeds it may be money well spent in terms of the final claim.

The timing of some repair work is important. Ensure that the property is treated properly to limit damage from mould and damp if this is relevant.

Also, securing the property, including the contents, after the damage is essential to protect the property.

In the case of any claim for compensation, the courts will always examine whether there has been adequate 'mitigation of loss' by the claimant.

What this means for anybody making a claim is that you have to do your best to ensure that the costs which you incur are kept to a minimum.

It is a matter of exercising reason.

You also need to be reasonably quick in tending to the damage.

This article is intended as a general guide only, you should seek professional advice in relation to your individual circumstances.

Theresa Murphy is a barrister based in Ardrahan, Co Galway

FBD advises that farmers should not attempt to fix damage, but use a suitably qualified contractor.

Employ a contractor that has the right safety equipment and experience to work at heights, and ensure they have insurance. Contact your FBD local office and they will check for you.

If a contractor is completing initial temporary emergency repairs on your behalf to prevent further damage, take photographs before and after the repairs, and retain any replaced materials for inspection.

Zurich say that where there has been minor damage to the property (i.e. where it is estimated that the total cost will not exceed €2,500), the farmer may arrange for the damage to be repaired.

If Zurich customers' contractor estimates that the total cost of the repairs will exceed €2,500, farmers should immediately contact them on 1890 208408 for assistance.

In general, for claims above €2,500, Zurich may arrange for a loss adjuster to visit the farm to inspect the damage. It would speed up the settlement of the claim if the farmer had established the repair cost in advance of the loss adjuster's visit.

In the case of urgent repairs, Zurich recommends that in order to mitigate the storm damage and prevent further loss, customers should conduct a risk assessment, photograph the damage before beginning the works and retain the damaged elements for a possible inspection.

Do you have a question for our team of experts? Email farming@independent.ie or by post to: Farming Independent, Independent House, 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1?

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