Be in the know before you claim
Last month (March) Community Law Marlborough once again got to host John Goddard from the law firm Morrison Kent | Wellington.
On this occasion John travelled to Ward to give his presentation on “How to Navigate Earthquake Claims” A guide for claimants. There was a great turnout with lots of questions asked.
Here are the main points from his presentation.
Ensure you have a copy of your insurance policy working that was in place at the time of the earthquake. You can request your file from your insurance company through the Privacy Act, and information from EQC under the Official Information Act.
You can assemble your own team of experts, for example geotechnical engineers (how the land will support buildings), structural engineers, builders, architects, quantity surveyors (who estimate building costs) and other professionals as required.
Once you have chosen the people for your “team” check with your insurance company to make sure that they will accept the opinion of the experts you have engaged. If they do not, ask them for a list of people whom they will accept reports and expert advice from.
These earthquake claims may be more complex now because of the memorandum of understanding which enables insurers to settle claims on behalf of EQC.
Minimum standards for insurers are contained in the Fair Insurance Code 2016.
Engineers work to a brief. Ensure the brief you give your engineer results in earthquake repairs meeting the correct standard of repair.
Ensure scopes of works are accurate and contain sufficient detail. Professional fees form part of the insurance claim; while there may be an upfront fee to pay, these costs should be reimbursed later.
Before applying for a building consent, you may be able to request a pre-application meeting with the council. There may be a fee for this. It could also help to apply for a project information memorandum to streamline any building consent applications.
If you have had work done as part of your claim, and engaged and paid for the services of trades people, the insurance company has an obligation to settle that part of your claim (ie where the damage has been quantified).
Settling an earthquake insurance claim involves participating in a commercial negotiation. Claimants are encouraged to prepare themselves to take part in negotiations. There may be some elements of earthquake claims that are appropriate for resolution through the Disputes Tribunal (small claims court).
Useful websites for information include;