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26-07-2013

The hidden complications of insurance claims

When we meet people who need to make an insurance claim after they’ve had a fire, flood or other incident, they sometimes say “I wasn’t sure if you handled my type of claim”. Often this is because they don’t realise the full extent of what they are facing – in particular, the claim may seem on the surface to be simple, but the damage and therefore the insurance implications go much further than they realise.

Small insurance claims can need professional help

Some of the smallest claims can be the most complicated. For example, a recent client broke a hand basin in her en suite shower room and initiated an accidental damage claim on her buildings insurance. Initially she thought that this would be straightforward: all she had to do was find a direct replacement for the basin. But it turned out they were no longer made, and there was nothing similar which would match the existing WC and shower without major alterations to the plumbing, flooring and tiling, so the insurance claim became far larger than originally envisaged. After detailed discussions with the insurer, they accepted that the extra work was needed, and the full claim was accepted.

Another example was a burst pipe which was buried in a kitchen wall. The policyholder started a buildings insurance claim and initially the insurer simply wanted to cover repairing the pipe, replastering the wall and replacing a few damaged kitchen cupboards. But once the client brought us in to negotiate with the insurer on their behalf, we were able to demonstrate that the damage went far deeper than that. In the end, the insurer accepted liability for complete replacement of the kitchen and the floor, which had been badly affected.

Large insurance claims are often complex

And of course, the larger claims we handle are often far more complicated than the policyholder ever thought they would be. A claim we handled in Birmingham involved water damage to a luxurious house after some incredibly heavy rainfall. Initially the insurer’s loss adjuster offered a ridiculously small settlement figure which would only cover superficial damage. After the policyholder turned to us, we brought in specialist chartered surveyors to uncover the full extent of the damage and then negotiated a fair settlement which would pay for the appropriate reinstatement of the property. This increased the settlement figure from the original offer of £30,000 to £120,000.

In short, if you’re in any doubt about an insurance claim, then it’s always worth getting some advice.

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