2009 Storm & Flood Commentary

Clearys Claims Managers

In 2009, the whole country experienced severe flooding and storm damage.

It was called the worst event in 50 years – indeed, some suggested it was the worst in living memory. Global warming was blamed for the damage or, at least, for having contributed to it. Bad planning and development were also highlighted as causes for many of the properties affected.

Today, only 6 years later, things are as bad as ever – worse indeed, given that the proportion of properties having flood insurance cover is much lower now than it was in 2009.

Following the flooding in 2009, many buildings were repaired with the money paid by Insurers making buildings habitable, comfortable and usable again. Little thought was put into preparing for similar occurrences happening again and certainly not only 6 years later.

This is a tragedy.

Clearys have come across numerous cases of flood damage where there is no insurance cover this time around. TV programmes and interviews are highlighting the extremely difficult circumstances this type of slow, insidious, destructive damage has inflicted on many unfortunate householders, farmers and businesses. Others in vulnerable areas, though not yet affected, are fearful for the future.

Securing assistance from the state is a possibility but the funds available to successful applicants are very low. Even at that, compensation is available only to those who do not have insurance cover and have suffered clear and specific damage. The Irish Red Cross are also distributing funds and humanitarian aid to people exposed to flooding but similar limitations apply to that scheme.

After the 2009 event, there was much work done by the state, through local authorities and the Office of Public Works. Defined areas which would be categorised as flood zones for national flood mapping purposes were identified. The insurers then availed of this service and either withdrew flood cover for property in these areas or hiked premiums for those who were “lucky” enough to be offered cover. Of course they would – what would you do?

The ball was then dropped by the state. No planning was put in place to deal with the obvious: what would happen to all those areas and their inhabitants, businesses and farm owners when flooding returned? Far fewer of them would have insurance cover next time around.

The Irish solution to this Irish problem was for government to call a meeting with the insurance industry after the horse had bolted. Clearly, for many unfortunate victims of recent events, there was no access to funds, allied to which they had the worry and stress of possible further recurrences with no prospect of cover being reinstated. Even if cover was available, it would be prohibitively expensive.

It appears to me that a possible solution for the state, property and business owners, insurers and, indeed, charities is to define a plan for residents and businesses that are in this “Catch 22” situation: Let the state assist them in buying insurance cover going forward and stop all future development, without appropriate flood protection, in these areas.

This scheme could include loss of profits cover for farmers and businesses. Cover could be capped so the potential recoveries deal with ‘humanitarian’ issues if they arise. The claims would be dealt with by the insurance industry. The state would have no involvement in the process nor would the charities.

Ultimately, it should be clear to everyone that continuing to reside in flood zones carries a risk and that, over time, people should have the choice and wherewithal to move away from them.

Such a scheme would mean that the cost to the state could be evenly spread over time and insurers could remain on the pitch with all the structures to deal with this problem at no additional cost to them.

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What to do if your business suffers from malicious damage or burglary?

All properties are at risk of malicious damage or burglary, no matter how good the location or how well-respected the business is. It is a potential hazard for any property owner but if it occurs, it is thankfully relatively simple to deal with and resolve.

Malicious damage comes in many forms and many degrees of severity, from simple graffiti or glass breakage to the more extreme end of the scale, such as robbery or arson.

Burglary, Malicious DamageIn all cases, the extent of damage should be determined by a professional loss assessor before an insurance claim is made.

  • The first step you should take when malicious damage or burglary is reported or discovered is to ensure that the building is safe to enter. Inform any employees or others who will need to be aware of the situation and if the damage is particularly extensive, do not open for business until you are certain that no further damage will be caused by doing so.
  • Next, call the guards. Try to leave everything exactly as you found it – avoid moving items or cleaning up until after they have visited the site. They may need to gather evidence, dust for fingerprints, and determine the motives and methods of those responsible for causing the damage. If you have CCTV in operation on the premises, have it ready for them to review as this will be essential to their investigation.
  • At this point you will need the services of Clearys Loss Assessors to gain a full picture of the damage caused. If cleaning up and repairs are vital to make the building secure, and the loss assessor is unable to visit the site immediately, take extensive photographs, video, and written inventory of the damage. However, if at all possible you should wait until they have examined the building before beginning any of this.
  • The next step in the process is to make an insurance claim and, depending on the outcome of the police investigation, press charges against the perpetrators. In either case, you will need to keep extensive and meticulous records of the incident including CCTV, photographs and videos, details of repair works, financial losses, etc.
  • Finally, take precautionary measures to reduce the risk of malicious damage or burglary occurring again. If you have not already done so, install an alarm system and camera surveillance, new durable locks, and if necessary, security personnel to man the property after hours.

Earthquakes! In Ireland?!

You may or may not be aware of them, but from time to time earthquakes occur in Ireland. Their frequency is rare and their impact is minimal but did you know that almost all insurance policies cover them?

On Tuesday and Wednesday the 26th and 27th of January this year Donegal was hit by two minor quakes measuring 1.5 and 1.7 respectively on the Richter scale.  This brought the number of quakes in Donegal in January to 3! Quakes in Ireland are nothing new, in 1984, an earthquake hit Dublin which measured 5.5 on the Richter scale. This is the largest ever recorded in Ireland. The aftershocks from this quake measured up to 4 on the Richter scale. Continue reading