Hurricane Ophelia: What does my insurance cover?

Here is what to do if your house is flooded, your car is damaged or you miss a flight

Locals advise people to stay indoors as Hurricane Ophelia brings strong winds to Salthill, Co. Galway. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

There is just so much that can go wrong in an ex-hurricane – to my roof, my car, my house, my travel plans, my person? Where do I stand?

It is complex. And there is good news, middlin’ news and bad news.

Can we start with the good news?

If you have home insurance then cover for storm damage applies and if there is significant damage to the buildings or to the contents of your home as a direct result of Ophelia, then you will be fully covered although some excesses will apply, depending on the nature of your policy.

And the bad news?

It is unlikely that everything on your property will be covered mind you and many typical policies exclude damage to gates, hedges, fences and garden furniture.

What about my roof? Will I be covered if all the tiles blow off?

Yes, and depending on your policy, you may also be covered for emergency repairs in the immediate aftermath of the storm and then a more comprehensive fix further down the road.

And my car? What happens if all those slates land on my car?

If you have comprehensive car insurance then you are completely covered for damage caused by falling trees and other storm related damage.

People on Twitter were saying that if I drive my car during a red alert and something bad happens, I am not covered. Is that true?

It is nonsense. If you are driving your car in the middle of the storm and – heaven forbid – you are blown into a tree you are completely covered. The only circumstance in which you might find a claim tricky is if you do something phenomenally stupid while out driving – trying to drive your Fiat 500 through a six-feet puddle or doing doughnuts on a Salthill beach or the like. So, don’t do that.

My property has been badly flooded? Where do I start?

In the immediate aftermath of any serious flooding some clear steps must be taken.

First, power and gas have to be disconnected and cracks and bulges in walls and ceilings have to be carefully assessed as wet plaster can threaten a property’s structure.

Standing water can hide hazards, and rats’ urine causes the potentially fatal Weil’s disease so broken skin cuts must be kept out of water and hands carefully disinfected.

What’s next?

No matter how your house has been hit, all damage has to be recorded with both stills and video and insurance companies contacted.

If necessary, arrange for emergency repairs to be carried out to stop any damage getting worse – do not take any risks and do not attempt to patch things up in the middle of the storm.

Keep evidence of damaged goods and/or receipt everything that you replace.

It is essential you take photographs and video of the damage immediately after it has happened.

If you need to move out of your home while you are being repaired then alert your insurance provider to this and keep all receipts.

If your house has been flooded and you have to get rid of carpets and furniture, do not permanently dispose of it until the insurance company has come around.

So do I call my insurer immediately.

As with most offices around the State, insurance companies are closed so you will have to wait until Tuesday morning.

How long will it take for claims to be processed?

We won’t know until the mopping up process has been completed but insurance companies will be busy in the days ahead. If past evidence is anything to go by they do tend to be good in the aftermath of major events.

Will my insurance premium climb next year if I make a claim?

Probably. If you make a claim under your car insurance you will most likely lose your no-claims bonus which will see your premium spike next year. It is difficult to say what impact a claim will have on your home insurance premium although a good rule of thumb suggests that the premium will go up by between 10 and 20 per cent. The – sort of – good news is a that a claim should not mean it is impossible to get cover next year as has often been the case in areas where flooding is a frequent problem.

My flight has been cancelled, what about me?

If your flight has been as a result of Ophelia, then the airline must offer you the choice between the following: re-routing as soon as possible, re-routing at a later date at your convenience or a refund.

If you choose the first option then the airline must provide you with care and assistance while you wait for the alternative flight.

What does that mean?

Meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation, transport between the hotel accommodation and the airport and telephone calls and access to email.

Will I get compensation?

No. Weather conditions incompatible with the safe operation of a flight are regarded exempt under passenger rights legislation.