Beware the sharks looking to make a quick buck following Debbie

Source: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services / Twitter

One issue we face after every catastrophe event is the number of get rich quick merchants that jump in and often exasperate the hardship being experienced by insureds.

In the past this has been mainly builders but as we saw in New Zealand after their earthquake, this is changing to public adjusters.

Over the next few days Queensland and Northern New South Wales will see the arrival of at least one team of ambulance chasing public adjusters seeking to sign up people who have suffered damage from Cyclone Debbie and the subsequent flooding to handle their claim. They typically work on a percentage of the amount recovered.

Insurers and Loss Adjusters have tried bringing in US based Loss Adjusters following Cyclones Larry and Yasi and it was a complete failure. Virtually every claim had to be reassessed.

In the main these adjusters were great people but the issue is US policies are significantly different to those in Australia. US based claims people, even if experienced and well trained in interpreting policies  are not trained on the Australian Insurance Contracts Act nor the Insurance Council’s Code of Practice.

Many home and business owners do need real help after a loss but it must be meaningful help from someone who knows our Australian policies, our law -and practice and who is a good builder, restoration company etc and who is not.

These guys talk a good talk but speak with a local broker or loss adjuster from North Queensland who had to pick up the pieces after Yasi to confirm what I am saying.

Remember the last lot were Loss Adjusters under the guidance of Australian insurers and Adjusting houses.

Who is going to watch and guide public adjusters coming in on a tourist visa to make a quick buck. Hopefully our Border Patrol officers will sort them out now President Trump has torn up the Free Trade Agreement.

Having said all of this, just because someone has a North American accent or any other accent does not mean the devil. Loss Adjusters and Claims Preparers, brokers originally from Canada, the United States or anywhere else who are employed by Australian firms, have lived here for a while and have been trained in the areas I discussed such as our Insurance a Contracts Act are fine. Some are great.

It is the fly by nighters that I am worried about. It is stressful enough going through a Cyclone I do not want the claim process to add to the stress.

Of course we have some home grown sharks as well. Already we are hearing advertisements on the radio about public adjusters. Having worked in claims in Queesland for over 40 years and have never heard their name let alone seen their work I worry.

Again, I am not saying anyone is dishonest or in experienced. Handling claims, particualrly business interruption claims requires training, and experience, and I urge everyone to please check their insurance qualifications, their experience in handling insurance claims, ask for testimonials and ring previous customers. Do not just fall for the retoric of what President Trump would call “Fake Experts”

Reality check: geneuine experts and trades v the sharks

What I will say is that as a business interruption specialist, I have been called in to help set the sum insured and or calculate losses for some of Australia’s leading accounting firms. I am Fellow of the CPA professoinal accounting body but I do not attempt to do my own tax or superannuation. I leave this to the experts and do not want to be training someone at my expense. The same goes for business interrutpion claims. They can be extremely complex and business owners and those inexperienced in the product do not know what they do not know resulting in either claims payments being delayed unnecesarily and or valid items being missed.

The same warning goes for builders, restorers, and other trades. Make sure that they are registered to work in Queensland, have the right insurances. experience and intergrity.

The majority of full time professionals in the insurance industry want Insured’s to get a fair deal and good advice when you or your clients need it most.

For some time I have been pushing to have anyone handling claims in this country needs to be licensed after adequate training. Those that advise at the time insurance is sold are required to have an Australian Financial Services Licence. Why not those giving advice at claims time?

For claims preparation, a good place to start is the International Institute of Claims Preparers website where all members have been trained on general insurance law and practice and the 6 principles, most importantly the principle of utmost good faith, have been tested, approved and commit to continuing professional development and ethical behaviour.

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