Making an insurance claim in bad weather

The UK has seen some extreme weather in the last couple of weeks, causing damage to homes and businesses. Not only are storms and bad weather disruptive, distressing and dangerous, they can also be costly.

If you’ve got an insurance policy in place, provided the policy that you have covers the type of damage inflicted, it’s your insurer who foots the bill: the St Jude’s storm which battered the South East in October 2013 cost insurance companies £130 million, and the floods of 2007 cost £3 billion.

Here’s our guide to the claims process should the worst happen to your home this winter.

Be prepared

Prevention is always better than a cure. You may want to make sure you’ve got a suitable home insurance policy in place, and take steps to protect your home from winter weather. Keep up to date with weather forecasts and any warnings issued for your area. If you think your home may be at risk from flooding or other severe weather conditions, make sure you have a list of contact details for your utility providers, insurer and local authority kept somewhere secure and water-proof. You should also consider moving your car away from an area that you think may flood. The UK Government has issued detailed advice for those at risk of flooding, which can be found on the Public Health England website.

Know what you’re covered for

Most comprehensive home insurance policies will cover flood and storm damage. If the damage means that you need to leave your home for a while, your insurance will often cover the cost of alternative accommodation up to a set limit. As a guide, you can usually spend up to around 20% of the total insured value to cover alternative accommodation and heating.

If your property causes damage to someone else’s - for example if a tile blows off your roof and smashes the neighbour’s greenhouse - most policies will offer liability cover up to a certain amount. Check your policy for the details of your cover.

Damage to your car could be difficult to reclaim. Most comprehensive motor insurance covers damage, but third party, fire and theft cover excludes damage from storms or floods.

Again, it is important to check with your insurer. If a tile from someone else’s roof damages your car, you’ll need to be able to prove that they were legally liable or negligent.

Making a claim

If your home is damaged by the weather, it is important to contact your insurer as soon as possible. Insurers are used to dealing with so-called “bad weather events” - especially in the UK! - and many have 24 hour emergency helplines. If the damage is serious it must be assessed as soon as possible.

Making repairs

If repair work is urgently needed to prevent further damage, you can arrange it and get it done yourself - you don’t need to wait for a response from your insurer. To claim back the cost, you will need to keep receipts for all work done, and it is also a good idea to take photos of the damage and the repairs.

If the damage needs to be assessed, the insurance company will appoint a loss adjuster. Although they are employed by the insurance company, this person should be independent from them. They should contact you within 24 hours and visit your home within 3 days - but bear in mind that if large parts of the country are being affected by severe weather they will be extremely busy. When they have completed their assessment, they will arrange for the work to be done and let you know how long you can expect it to take.

If you have any queries about what you may or may not be covered for this winter, however small, check them out with your insurer - it will be worth it in the long run.