Insurers today rejected suggestions the industry has focussed on maintenance issues and wear and tear to avoid paying claims for homes damaged in Cyclone Debbie in March last year.
The criticism, made on Channel Nine’s A Current Affair program last night, was “absurd”, ICA spokesman Campbell Fuller says.
“Of more than 75,000 Cyclone Debbie claims, about 99% are closed,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au today. “Fewer than 0.6% ended up with the independent Financial Ombudsman Service.”
Total losses from the cyclone, which swept across the Queensland coastline, have reached $1.78 billion.
David Keane, who runs a claims advocacy called Solve My Claim, told the program he has helped 200 cyclone victims gain a combined extra $20 million from insurance companies.
“The way I like to put it is that we have managed to get them what they should have got in the first place,” he said.
He accuses insurers of highlighting pre-existing damage, wear and tear, and lack of proper maintenance to reduce their responsibility under policies.
And he claims service providers such as builders and engineers are not always impartial in the process.
“They are acting for the insurance companies and the insured is actually at a massive disadvantage at every step of the process,” he told insuranceNEWS.com.au. “There is a huge need in the community for truly independent insurance experts.”
Mr Fuller says most open Cyclone Debbie claims are from the region covering the Whitsundays, Proserpine and Airlie Beach, which is considered the most vulnerable part of Queensland to cyclones.
The area has some of the oldest housing stock in Queensland, with about 45% built before 1984.
“Many claimants’ properties had old cyclone and storm damage that had not been properly repaired, or properties that were poorly maintained,” he said.