Storm damage could cost insurance firms more than £100m


Damage caused by weekend storms is expected to cost insurance companies tens of millions of pounds. Some sources suggested that the final cost of repairing and replacing damaged property could be over £100 million.

While a spokesman from the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) said it was too early yet to estimate the cost of the storms, it is expected to exceed the cost of the storm and flood damage at the end of 1997. The Christmas 1997 damage resulted in 47,500 claims to insurance companies and the payment of some £64 million to policyholders. Claims to insurance companies as a result of the latest storms will be well in excess of the £25 million paid out for damage caused by Hurricane Charlie in August 1986.

The IIF yesterday published a list of emergency telephone numbers to enable householders and other policyholders whose property has been damaged to contact their insurance companies. The IIF pointed out that:

household buildings and contents insurance will cover damage caused by storms;

damage to cars is covered where the car owner has a comprehensive motor insurance policy;

insurers will usually pay for temporary repairs;

insurers will usually pay for alternative accommodation if storm damage makes a home uninhabitable.

Householders and others who have suffered property damage should contact their insurers as quickly as possible giving details of the damage and any estimates they have received for repairs. The emergency telephone numbers which were published in yesterday's newspapers should be listed in the householder's policy document.

Insurers have advised policyholders to make any temporary repairs they can without putting themselves or others at risk of injury. Temporary repairs such as boarding up broken windows are aimed at preventing further damage. Where contractors are employed to carry out temporary repairs, policyholders should obtain receipts for any money paid and should keep these receipts for the insurance claim. The IIF has advised policyholders to get an estimate for the full cost of the repairs from any contractor carrying out temporary repairs. Insurance companies maintain lists of contractors available to carry out repairs and can give contact numbers to policyholders who telephone their 24-hour emergency numbers.

One insurance company source contacted yesterday advised policyholders to contact their insurance companies by telephone immediately to advise them of the damage and to get clearance to go ahead with repairs.

In most cases where the cost of the repairs is small the insurance company will give the go-ahead immediately, he said. The insurance company will then send the policyholder a claim form which must be completed and returned with estimates for the work required and receipts for money paid for repairs. Because of the extent of the storms and the large volume of claims expected, most insurers will operate a cut-off value below which they will not send out assessors to inspect the damaged property, he said. This cut-off value will vary between insurance companies, he said. But, he warned that insurance companies would carry out random checks of small claims to ensure that no fraudulent claims are paid. Policyholders should not dispose of damaged property, for example carpets, he advised, because the insurer may want to inspect them.

Where damage is substantial, involving large claims, insurance companies will send out assessors.