National law firm Slater and Gordon is issuing a warning to residents affected by heavy rainfalls in central and western Victoria to make sure their insurance companies cover the damage to their home and contents, after witnessing repeated attempts by insurance companies to avoid paying-up after severe weather.
In March this year, Slater and Gordon won a major legal battle against an insurance company that refused to pay for storm damage to a Gunnedah resident. The insurance company had unsuccessfully tried to argue that the damage suffered by the homeowner was due to causes other than excess rainwater.
Slater and Gordon lawyer, Peter Long, who is assisting dozens of clients in central Queensland to convince their insurers that the water inundation of their properties in March this year was storm damage, not flood damage, said it was important for residents to hold their insurance companies to account.
“It has been estimated that hundreds of homes have been damaged or destroyed from the recent downpours and the subsequent saturation of properties across Victoria,” Mr Long said.
“The question of liability depends on whether it was actually the rain water that damaged people’s homes or contents in the first instance or whether it was flood waters that have risen after the water has overflowed from local creeks or rivers,“ Mr Long said.
“Storm damage is generally not excluded from insurance cover, but many insurers try to argue that intense downpours constitute flooding when nothing could be further from the truth.”
Mr Long said it was important for people who have been affected in areas such as Creswick, Clunes and Beaufort to make sure that they “don’t get ripped off.”
“Time and time again, I have seen insurance companies ducking for cover when it comes to paying out on insurance policies, while at the same time they have been happy to take people’s premiums ,” Mr Long said.
“Unfortunately, some insurance companies refuse to pay for damage caused to homes, sheds or their contents when rainwater sweeps through properties during intense rainfalls periods,” he said.
Lawyer Dan McGlade, who is based in Slater and Gordon Lawyers Ballarat office, said the news would bring some hope to local residents particularly in the Creswick, Clunes and Beaufort areas.
“We have already heard that residents are already phoning their insurance companies and being told that that are not covered for flooding,” Mr McGlade said.
“It’s important for local residents to know that that does not have to be the end of it and that they may be able to bring a claim against their insurance company.”
“It’s been a tough few days for many local residents and after fighting to save their properties and their belongings, it’s shameful that they are going to have to fight for their insurance rights as well,” Mr McGlade said.