Know your insurance rights this bushfire season

Know your insurance rights this bushfire season

Thursday, 17 January 2013

As Victoria swelters through a hot January, with the ever-present risk of bushfires, Victoria Legal Aid is urging Victorians to know their insurance rights if their property is destroyed or damaged.

Social Inclusion Program Manager Joel Townsend said people should always put in an insurance claim and get more information about their rights.

He was commenting in the wake of research which showed that many people did not understand what their insurance covered and wrongly thought that insurance companies don’t pay up for natural disasters.

Mr Townsend said it would be unfortunate if the high level of cynicism about insurance companies reported in the research stopped people from making a valid insurance claim.

‘An insurer won’t make a proper assessment unless you put in a formal claim,’ Mr Townsend said. ‘Even if an insurer then rejects your claim, you can ask for the decision to be reviewed independently for free by the Financial Ombudsman Service.

‘Even if your insurer gives a verbal ‘no’ over the phone, make sure you lodge a claim. Don’t assume you’re not covered.’

Mr Townsend said that this also applied to people affected by even small earthquakes like last week’s, centred at Narre Warren in Melbourne’s east. While not common in Victoria, past earthquakes had still caused damage to people’s homes, even 100 kilometres away from the epicentre.

‘After the Gippsland earthquake in March 2009, the Ombudsman overturned some decisions by insurers to refuse claims,’ Mr Townsend said.

Victoria Legal Aid has previously assisted many people affected by natural disasters with insurance claims. After Black Saturday, Victoria Legal Aid was part of the Bushfire Legal Help partnership which responded to more than 2100 enquiries, and provided ongoing help to more than 800 Victorians affected by bushfires.

How we can help

We provide free telephone information and help with insurance claim processes and disputes and dealing with an insurance company. Contact Victoria Legal Aid’s Legal Help on (03) 9269 0120 or 1800 677 402 (rural callers) from 8 am to 6 pm. Telephone interpreters can be arranged.

More information

Disaster Legal Help

For media enquiries related to this issue please contact Kerrie Soraghan, Communications Coordinator, (03) 9269 0660.

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