Australia — Legal Aid lawyers have taken on the cases of more than 230 fire victims through the Disaster Recovery Centre at Springwood.
After Legal Aid’s intervention, a deal has now been brokered whereby the major insurance companies have agreed to drop the requirement for victims to itemise their losses. This is expected to speed up claims processing.
In another example of insurers treating fire victims harshly, Legal Aid lawyers discovered one insurance company had told several families that if they needed money for temporary accommodation it would be deducted from their final payout. The company’s advice was flatly wrong, Legal Aid said. ”This would have potentially prevented families from being able to afford to rebuild their homes,” Mr Smith said.
After the mistake was pointed out to the company, the insurer had to retrain its staff and contact customers to advise them they were entitled to up to 52 weeks of payment for temporary accommodation, and they were offered an immediate lump sum payment.
The Insurance Council of Australia will hold a forum for Blue Mountains residents with insurance claims for damaged or destroyed homes. The forum, on November 12 in Springwood, will discuss settlement options, site clean-ups and rebuilding. The ombudsman and Legal Aid will also attend.
A spokesman for the insurance council said the Blue Mountains fires were estimated to have caused $156 million in damage, but it was ”unlikely that it will have a significant impact on insurance premiums”.
Assessors have visited 95 per cent of damaged properties. Bushfire claims are part of the standard home and contents policy issued by most insurers. People living in an area likely to be affected by bushfire would be paying a premium for their policy, the spokesman said.
More than 200 people lost their birth certificates and 55 lost marriage certificates. They are being replaced by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages for free.