Having to make a claim on your insurance can often be a stressful time, usually because the event that necessitated the claim — perhaps a theft, fire or accident — can often be a traumatic experience.
But if there’s any good news to be taken from this, it’s that the claims process is actually quite straightforward. If you are honest with your broker or insurer, take appropriate steps and if your claim falls within the parameters of what your policy will cover, there’s no reason for the process to be anything other than simple.
You might be pleased to know that the overwhelming majority of claims are paid out, and if you are diligent about doing all of the following, the chances that your claim will fall into that majority are quite good.
Call emergency services if required
This might seem obvious, but if a serious accident, fire or theft has taken place — or if any of your insured property has essentially been rendered a crime scene — call the police and any other necessary emergency services immediately and follow their instructions.
Take note of important details
While it can be hard to remember or even prioritise committing relevant details to memory when an insurable event has taken place, it’s in your best interest to try and take note of some important information. If you can, noting the specific time and date of the event, as well as the specific location, can be extremely helpful to insurers.
Also try and write out a clear description of what happened as close to the event as possible so that your memory is fresh. If there are any eyewitnesses, get their accounts written down as well and make sure you get their contact details.
Taking photos of any damage or anything else you think might be relevant can also be extremely helpful.
Notify your insurer or broker as soon as possible
It’s in your best interest to notify your insurer or broker of an accident, theft or damage as soon as is practicable after the event. Even if you don’t have all the information that can be helpful or necessary, it can be quite beneficial to chat to your insurer about what’s happened. They can then go over the claims process for you and clue you in to any steps you may need to take or evidence you’ll need to gather.
Chatting to your insurer or broker immediately after a claimable event has taken place can also be quite calming. You’ll typically find that brokers and claims personnel are very understanding in times of trauma or accidents. They are there to help you, so you should certainly make the most of the advice they are able to offer in the event you need to make a claim. Many brokers will also actively help assist you through the claims process
Read your PDS
Ideally, this is something you will have done prior to any bad situation arising. Even better? You will have read the PDS before you even entered into an insurance contract. However, if you haven’t read your PDS before you need to make a claim, it’s an excellent idea to take a look when you’re in a situation where you need to claim.
The PDS contains information on what you need to do to make your claim, and also notes any excesses you will need to pay and how long it will take for your claim to be processed.
Collect any necessary evidence or documentation
Any photos, invoices, receipts, etc. that you have can that help paint a picture of what happened and will help put a dollar figure on the loss should be collected and passed on to your insurer or broker.
Submit your claim as close to the insurable event as possible
There are usually time limits on how long you have to make a claim following an insured event, but even so, it’s best to lodge a claim as soon as you can. Doing so makes it easier for the insurer to get accurate information and ensures a better description of events can be obtained. The longer you take to lodge a claim, the more difficult it can be to access the information necessary to confirm the details of the claim, which can sometimes result in a smaller payout.
People can sometimes make the mistake of thinking that small embellishments or the omission of minor details can be harmless when making a claim. But the reality is that doing so is not a good idea. Leaving things, fudging the details or telling untruths will usually lead to your claim being denied. Even if you think telling the truth will keep your claim from being paid out, it’s unlikely your insurer won’t figure out the truth anyway.
Of course, there are some great things you can do throughout the period of insurance to enhance the chance that, if you do need to make a claim at some point, the claim will be paid out.
We’ve already discussed reading your PDS in advance of entering into a policy to ensure you are covered for the things you want to be covered for, but it’s also important that you review your policy each year at renewal time to be certain that your insurance is still meeting its intended purpose.
And while it may seem obvious, we can’t stress enough how important it is that you pay your premium promptly. A failure to make premium payments will usually result in any claim you make being denied. You should also be diligent about updating your insurer if your details change and informing them of any information you know may be relevant to their decision about whether or not to insure you.
Beyond that, take some precautionary measures — take photos of as many assets as you can.
Having to make a claim can be a stressful and emotional process, and those things will only feel worse if you aren’t sure about what’s happening, experience delays or don’t have an adequate grasp of the process, your responsibilities or next steps. If you are confused about anything at all, don’t be afraid to contact your insurer or broker. The whole point of insurance is so that you can make a claim if you need to, and claims staff are trained to help you through a difficult time. Your insurer or broker is there to help you, so if you need something explained, if you have any questions or if you are seeking some reassurance, get in contact so they can help.
What do I do if I’m not happy with how my claim was handled?
It’s in the interests of the insurer or financial services company and the consumer to be able to find a solution if there is a problem regarding an insurance contract. The first step is to take the complaint directly to the insurer. In most cases, any questions and concerns can be sorted out quickly and easily. The insurer must follow the Insurance Code of Practice and respond to complaints promptly and present an outcome progress report. You can also follow a complaints process to seek satisfaction from an insurer. If you’re still not satisfied you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service in Australia or the Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman in New Zealand. These services offer independent and unbiased solutions to assist consumers.