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Flood damage: are you covered?

by | Apr 25, 2022

Flood damage: are you covered?The flooding across KZN has caused major damage to property. The good news is that most short-term insurance contracts will provide cover for weather-related incidents, which includes flood damage.

According to Fanus Coetzee, Head of Claims at Santam, comprehensive vehicle insurance usually covers loss or damage due to any accidental event which includes hail, storm and flood damage.

To ensure that your claim is successful, it is imperative that you understand exactly what you are covered for. Make sure you know what the terms and conditions of your policy are, and particularly what is excluded.

Insurers may impose certain limits or exclusions for flood damage for specific properties, but these are exceptional cases.

It is a general condition that you must take all reasonable precautions and care to prevent or minimise loss and damage.

Insure for correct replacement value

Then, most importantly, you must ensure that both the property (house) and its contents are insured for correct replacement value. Underinsurance is the biggest reasons for partial pay-out of claims.

As the damaged property needs to be replaced, replacement value forms the basis to determine the correct insurance value. If the replacement value of household contents is R600 000 but the client is insured for only R300 000, i.e., for 50% of the replacement value, then normal practice is that only 50% of the claim will be paid out.

Santam has partnered with the SA Weather Service to send SMS warnings to clients in areas where severe weather conditions such as hailstorms and floods are expected.

“We definitely see the positive effect of these SMS warnings in the claims received for hail damage. We advise clients to regularly update their contact details, especially their cellphone number to ensure they receive these warnings,” says Coetzee.

Be prepared for flood damage

Ricardo Coetzee, Head of Auto & General Insurance recommends doing regular safety and maintenance checks on your home, like checking structures around your house for weak spots, clearing debris from gutters, cutting away dead trees and branches, and ensuring adequate drainage of water. Reinforcing vital structures if you live in a flood-prone area is also a good idea.

If you notice a public area where there is insufficient drainage, or a possible safety hazard due to cracking structures and roads, landslides, rock falls etc., alert the authorities immediately.

Make sure to have all emergency numbers, including that of your insurer, saved on your phone or memorised. Make sure that your whole family is thoroughly briefed on what to do and who to call in the event of an emergency.

If heavy rain is expected, keep the following advice in mind:

  • Make sure that your outdoor furniture and accessories are safely stored or firmly secured.
  • Unplug electronic devices to protect them from a power surge due to lightning.
  • Where possible, park your car under cover and delay travelling until the storm has subsided.
  • Don’t park under trees as there is a danger of falling branches and debris.
  • Move high-value items to the highest possible floor or shelf if a flood threatens.
  • Turn off electricity and gas supplies if flooding occurs to limit the risk of electrical shock or a fire.
  • If you see warning signs like water seeping through the door, head for higher ground immediately – don’t wait for it to become a life-threatening crisis.
  • Don’t try to drive in flood conditions. Just 15cm of moving water can knock you off your feet and water just 60cm deep can sweep a vehicle away. You also run the risk of flooding your vehicle’s air intake, which will stall the engine. Generally, if the water is deeper than the bottom of your doors or the bottom third of your wheels, it is not advisable to drive through it.
  • Avoid crossing bridges or roads next to rivers during heavy rains. If you do get stuck on a flooded road, it’s best to switch to the lowest possible gear and proceed slowly.
  • If you approach a flooded spot at speed, take your foot off the accelerator and let your speed drop gradually. Never use the brakes suddenly because this may cause the car to skid or aquaplane.

This article first appeared in City Press.

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Maya Fisher-French author of Money Questions Answered

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