Australia:Insured losses from 2019 bushfires total $1.7bn

24 August 2020

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AUSTRALIA – The latest figures from the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) revealed that last year’s bushfires has cost the industry AUD2.4bn ($1.72bn), putting it as the top five most costly disasters in terms of insurance claims.

The insurance industry’s peak body said its members had received 30,000 claims, with NSW accounting for three-quarters of them. However, there are still thousands of affected Australians waiting for their claims to be settled.

“The total paid in terms of cash and services that have been delivered on the ground, including temporary accommodation sits at around AUD1.8bn so far,” said ICA head of risk and operations Karl Sullivan.

The insurance industry said smaller claims had taken three to five months to settle and that some building supplies were in short supply due to COVID-19.

As a result, some claims involving more complex building could take 12 to 18 months for those living in regional areas, Mr Sullivan said.

During the disaster and for months afterwards, Legal Aid NSW deployed 65 solicitors to bushfire-affected areas throughout the state and provided advice to 835 people.

Almost half of the requests for assistance were related to issues with insurance.

The ICA estimates 20% to 40% of bushfire-affected residents were underinsured.

“Some people haven’t purchased enough insurance at all,” Mr Sullivan said. “And you will find very quickly that the scope of works or the rebuilding cost will be higher than the amount of insurance that they have purchased. In those circumstances, there is sadly not a lot of room for negotiation.”

The bushfires began a year ago with the first homes lost in the north of the state from mid-August. The fires went on to hit large tracts of the Mid-North Coast, Hunter, Southern Highlands, Central West, Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury, Snowy Mountains, Riverina, Shoalhaven and South Coast, destroying more than 2,400 homes.

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