Will These Natural Disasters Please Take a Break!

Large hail stones cause major damage in Melbourne on Christmas Day 2011

Despite it being a very intense year with very few days off during the entire year, the LMI Claims Services Division, Loss Management International, has responded to all three natural disasters to hit Australia and New Zealand over the past few days.

First up, the New Zealand office of LMI attended to the latest earthquake damage to arise out of Christchurch following the two earthquakes that struck on 23rd December.

The second event was the severe hail and thunderstorms that struck Melbourne for the second time in 2011, this time on Christmas day. Damage was sustained mainly in the western and northern suburbs. I assisted with our response here with the claims being both physical damage by the hail denting roofs, smashing asbestos roofs and causing water damage. Two Insureds I attended were car dealerships.  Both had over 200 vehicles in the open. All damaged by the large hail stones. One Insured had insurance on the stock and one didn’t. My estimate of the average cost to repair the cars is at least $5,000. 200 x $5,000 (you can do the maths). Was the premium saving worth it! Every disaster I go to has stories like this. Business and home owners need to appreciate that over a 1/3 of property and business interruption insurance claims in Australia are weather-related.

Our Queensland and South Australian offices also responded to losses arising out of Cyclone Grant which struck the Northern Territory on 26th December 2011. LMI South Australia was also kept busy with a major hail storm in Whyalla, where the hail stones were reported to be 100mm (4″) – if true, that is massive.

As a follow up, the media bashing the insurance industry up on having skeleton staff and on the flood issue this evening is not only demotivating to those in all facets of claims, but also unnerving for those Insureds affected.

Taking a little liberty with Mario Cuomo 1986 statement: A [dishonest] judge can manipulate the law. A smart lawyer can keep a killer out of jail, a smart accountant can keep a thief from paying taxes, [the stupidist] reporter could ruin your reputation – unfairly.

It is going to be a tough patch for everyone as builders and their trades are on their Christmas break with many having travelled away from home before Christmas. The reality is that it will not be a break for many of us that did not go away. The important thing for those in the industry to keep in mind is not to let the bad press get us down. We will all do the best for the insuring public at their time of need.

I am sure that everyone in the insurance industry hopes for a less busy 2012 with fewer natural disasters to attend to. 2011 is certainly ending as it began. I think a few home and business owners may just agree!

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