Filing an insurance claim - what Alberta flood victims need to know

EDMONTON, July 10, 2013 /CNW/ - As thousands of people begin to pick up the pieces following the devastating flooding in southern Alberta, Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is offering advice to help make filing and managing an insurance claim as straightforward as possible.

"Our hearts go out to the many people returning home after the flooding," says Bill Adams, IBC Vice-President, Western & Pacific Region. "Not only are they grieving for the damage caused to their homes and communities, but residents are also trying to get a handle on the rebuilding process, which includes filing insurance claims. We want to help make that part of the recovery go as smoothly as possible."

Every insurance company that writes insurance policies in Alberta has extra staff - claims adjusters, customer service representatives and underwriters - working to help Albertans recover from the recent disaster. According to an IBC survey some 5,000 insurance company personnel have been deployed to work on flood-related claims.

IBC offers these tips to help affected residents manage the insurance claims process:

Starting the process

  • Call your insurance representative and/or company. Most insurers have 24-hour claims service. Be as detailed as possible when providing information. If you need help getting in touch with your insurer, contact IBC's Consumer Information Line at 1-800-377-6378.

  • Prevent further damage. If it's safe to do so, start cleaning up and drying things out, and protect your property from further damage (e.g., board up holes and move items out of wet basements). Be sure to wear protective clothing during the cleanup such as sturdy boots, gloves, a face mask, etc. Speak with your insurance representative before making any non-urgent repairs.

  • List all damaged or destroyed items. If possible, assemble proofs of purchase, photos, receipts and warranties. Take photos of damage incurred and keep damaged items, unless they pose a health hazard.

  • Keep all receipts related to cleanup and living expenses if you've been displaced. Ask your insurance representative about what expenses you're entitled to and for what period of time.

  • Review your policy to ensure you are familiar with specified deductibles, coverage limits and replacement values. Talk to your insurance representative if anything is unclear.

Next steps

  • Once you have reported a loss, a claims adjuster will be assigned. It may take some time given the number of people affected by the flooding, but you will be contacted.

  • A claims adjuster will contact you to investigate the circumstance of the loss, examine the documents you provide and explain the next steps. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Take notes of the conversations.

  • Your insurance company will ask you to complete a "proof of loss" form, to list what property and/or items have been damaged or destroyed, with the corresponding value or cost of the damage or loss. You must sign and swear that the statements you make in the proof of loss are true. Usually, the proof of loss must be completed and returned to your insurance company within 30 days. Ask your insurance representative or claims adjuster if something is unclear.

What's covered, what's not covered

Important note: Home and business insurance policies can differ among companies, so be sure to talk to your insurance representative about your specific coverage details.

Homes

  • Overland flooding resulting in water overflowing onto dry land and causing damage is not generally covered in home insurance policies in Canada.

  • However, sudden and accidental bursting of plumbing pipes and appliances is covered by home insurance policies.

  • Water damage in a basement due to a sewer backup is only covered if specific sewer backup coverage has been purchased.

  • In certain circumstances, homeowners who are unable to return home due to insurable damage are entitled to additional living expenses (this coverage is generally not available if an evacuation happened due to overland flooding).

Vehicles

  • Damage to vehicles from wind, hail or water is usually covered if comprehensive or all perils coverage auto insurance has been purchased. This coverage is not mandatory, so check your insurance policy or contact your insurance representative.

Businesses

There are many different, specialized insurance products for businesses. Talk to your insurance representative for the specifics of your insurance policy.

  • Most business owners will have purchased two common types of insurance: commercial property insurance, which would include building and stock or equipment coverage to help replace or repair damaged property and contents; and business interruption insurance to compensate for loss of income while a business is shut down following an insured loss.

  • Flood insurance is available as an add-on coverage to both commercial property and business interruption insurance policies. In other words, to be covered for losses due to flood, business owners must have chosen and paid for this option.

  • Sewer backup coverage is also available, but is usually purchased separately.

  • If you purchased a business interruption policy, find out whether it is a limited (earnings) form or extended (profits) form.
    • A limited form pays only until the damage is repaired or the property is replaced. Ask whether there are limits on the amount of time your business is covered and the amount your insurance will pay in any one month.

    • An extended form continues to pay until your business resumes its normal, pre-interruption level, subject to the maximum period of indemnity listed in your policy.

What to do if you're unhappy with your insurer's decision

"Though a large number claims are being processed and successfully settled as we speak, it's inevitable that with a disaster of this size there will be some people who do not agree with the claims decision," says Adams. "Consumers need to know that if they do not agree with the result of their insurance claim, they have appeal options."

IBC encourages consumers to investigate the following options:

  • Ask your claims adjuster for an explanation. If your claim has been declined, you have a right to know why. Ask for a clear explanation, in writing if possible. You can also request to speak with the company claims manager.

  • Consult your insurance company's ombudsperson. All federally/provincially licensed home, car and business insurers have a dispute-resolution mechanism in place, including a complaints liaison officer. This information should be available on your insurance company's website, or consumers can check this list from the Alberta Superintendent of Insurance.

  • Call IBC's Consumer Information Centre at 1-800-377-6378. Consumers can get advice from an insurance industry professional.

Additional action

This step is considered a last resort if you have exhausted the above options and still have not resolved your complaint:

  • The General Insurance OmbudService (GIO) is an independent, regionally based consumer dispute resolution system for the insurance industry. They provide consumers with a free, independent and impartial process to resolve complaints about home, car or business insurance. Call toll free: 1-877-225-0446.

For more information on insurance, your rights as a consumer and the complaint resolution process, please visit ibc.ca.

About Insurance Bureau of Canada
Insurance Bureau of Canada is the national industry association representing Canada's private home, car and business insurers. Its member companies represent 90% of the property and casualty (P&C) insurance market in Canada. The P&C insurance industry employs over 118,600 Canadians, pays more than $7 billion in taxes to the federal, provincial and municipal governments, and has a total premium base of $46 billion.

To view media releases and other information, visit the media section of IBC's website at www.ibc.ca. Follow IBC on Twitter @InsuranceBureau or like us on Facebook.


SOURCE: INSURANCE BUREAU OF CANADA

For further information:

If you require more information, IBC spokespeople are available to discuss the details in this media release. To schedule an interview, please contact:

Helen Lialias
Media Relations Officer
Insurance Bureau of Canada
416-362-2031 x 4312
hlialias@ibc.ca

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