Most of us make an insurance claim sooner or later. When the time comes, there are a few things we can all do to make the process go smoothly. After all, when you’ve just had your home damaged, lost some property or had something happen to your car, the last thing you want is a load of hassle when it comes to having your insurer help put things right.
The Insurance Council of New Zealand Te Kāhui Inihua o Aotearoa has focused on house, contents and personal motor vehicle insurance claims in the guide below.
All ICNZ members are bound by the Fair Insurance Code. It sets out your insurer’s obligations to you, including around how it will handle your claim. It also sets out your obligations and how to make a complaint.
1. Read your insurance policy
You’ll need to find your policy number to start the claims’ process.
You should read your policy document to see exactly what you’re covered for and note any special terms or add-ons. Look here for things like the amount of excess you’ll need to pay, or even if the type of claim you’re making is exempt from an excess. For example, some motor vehicle policies allow for excess-free glass claims. It’s also good to check to see if you’re covered for more than you might initially think. For instance, while many contents policies cover you for property loss or damage away from home, some basic policies might have limitations in this regard. Many house policies have provisions for emergency works and include allowances for temporary accommodation.
2. What documentation will you need to support your claim?
If you’re keen for your claim to be processed quickly, consider what you can provide to speed things along. As you’d expect, things that can help prove your loss, such as receipts, invoices or other proof of purchase, photographs of the goods in your possession, including any damage to them, are helpful but Images downloaded from the internet would not be considered sufficient documentation to support your loss.
You should also have a copy of the reference number for any report you’ve made to the Police to hand.
The most common house insurance claims are for minor damage where it’s possible to safely continue living in the property. However, fire and natural disasters such as severe storms, tornados, earthquakes and floods, can do a lot more damage and potentially leave your home unsafe or otherwise unfit to live in. In such cases, your safety, and that of others, is the top priority. Don’t do anything to put yourself at risk and always follow the guidance of local authorities such as Civil Defence.
Some policies allow for emergency work to be undertaken to make things safe and prevent further loss. If your home is uninhabitable, or you’ve been evacuated, you might qualify for payment towards temporary accommodation. Check your policy or ask your insurer about what coverage is available to you in both these cases.
If emergency work needs doing, it’s always best to check with your insurer before incurring the cost of getting this done. Likewise, it’s best to check with your insurer before disposing of anything and always take photographs if you do.
Your insurer will typically want to send an assessor round to look at the damage, record it and work out what needs to be fixed. In events that cause widespread damage to many properties, such as earthquakes, floods or storms, your insurer will make its best endeavours to have an assessor to you a soon as possible. There may though be delays due to the number of people who need to be seen or as a result of insurers prioritising those whose homes have suffered considerable damage or are in a vulnerable position. These days, the vast majority of EQC related claims are handled directly by your insurer.
When it comes to making a claim, your insurer will need to know the following:
- The details of what’s happened and the circumstances
- Detailed information about the damage
- The details of everyone involved
- The date and time of when the incident occurred
- Any other information that may assist in assessing your claim
Your insurer will also need to know about repeat or additional damage caused by subsequent earthquakes or flood events. Be sure to record this and let your insurer know.
Remember, insurance is primarily there to cover you for sudden and unexpected events, such as storm damaging your roof resulting in water damage to the property.
Insurance isn’t there to cover you for damage due to wear and tear or a lack of maintenance. For instance, leaking pipes can cause gradual damage. You’ll need to know how gradual damage is dealt with under your specific policy. It’s always best to understand this before you need to make a claim, ideally when you take out or renew your cover.
Whether you’re renting or own your home, you’re likely to have insurance for your personal possessions. Common contents insurance claims include cover for accidental damage or loss due to fire, burglary or natural disaster. Some contents insurance policies also cover you in case you accidentally damage someone else’s property. Cover often extends to when you’re away from home, such as if you have personal possessions stolen from your vehicle when on a camping trip. Some policies also have extensions to cover the possessions of children living away from home as students. Not all policies have such extensions listed above, so it pays to check.
- In the case of damage or loss, you’ll need to provide proof of ownership of the items you’re claiming for. You can use receipts, warranties, asset valuations, photos of your home or you with the items as proof of the loss. Don’t download generic pictures of the item from the internet for this purpose.
- Some retailers will have a record of higher value purchases in store; or perhaps you lodged a warranty at the time of purchase. There might also be a record of delivery or perhaps you bought on-line and there is an email trail to back that up.
- In the instance of burglary, you’ll also need to provide proof that you’ve reported the loss to the Police.
- Check whether your policy has any limits in place for specified or high value items such as jewellery, artwork, bicycles or outdoor equipment. For high value jewellery and artwork, it’s really important to have up to date, independent, valuations.
- It’s a good idea to take photographs of receipts as the originals can often fade.
Regardless of whether your motor insurance policy is comprehensive cover, third party fire and theft, or third-party only, in the event of an accident, or damage to your or someone else's vehicle, you will likely need to make a claim. Again, your safety is the top priority so call the emergency services first if necessary.
- For a significant accident, the Police or emergency services may well be involved. Get a copy of the incident number so your insurer can follow up if necessary.
- For the theft of your vehicle, you’ll also need to know your Police report number.
- For minor accidents, the Police may not be involved. You’ll need to make sure you exchange names, phone numbers, address details, vehicle registration numbers and the name of your respective insurers with all affected parties before you go your separate ways. It’s also a really good idea to take photographs at the scene.
- Many policies have special provisions for glass repairs with a different level of excess. Once you have notified your insurer of a glass related claim and agreed which company will do the work, that provider will typically bill your insurer directly.
- If your car is damaged, immobile or insecure, do your best to prevent further loss. If the car is immobile this may mean arranging to have it recovered to a secure location. Depending on your policy, your insurer may be able to arrange this for you.
- Any repairs will need the approval of your insurer and will typically need to be undertaken by the insurer’s approved provider. Make sure you have your insurers’ approval before getting any work done or incurring costs.
- Note - personal possessions in a vehicle are not covered by the motor insurance policy. Refer to the ‘Contents insurance claims’ section above for how the loss or damage of personal possessions may be handled.
Once you’re ready to make your claim, head online and get started. Simple claims can usually be made using the online claim process, but if you have questions or a more complex claim, you may wish to call your insurer or broker to discuss and get them to assist you with the claims process.
Remember this simple check list when it comes to claims time:
- Safety first: whether it’s your home or vehicle that’s been damaged, or there’s flood water or other hazards, don’t do anything to put yourself or others at further risk.
- Contact your insurance provider as soon as you can and before having any work done.
- Check your policy so you know what is and isn’t covered and what your excess, if any, will be.
- Have proof of ownership of any goods lost or damaged to hand such as receipts or photographs.
If the Police are involved, have the report number to hand. Keen to understand more about insurance policy claims? Head over to the Citizens Advice Bureau which has information about insurance claims, or check out our Insurance Health Check page. We also have a range of Consumer Guides about specific insurance topics that you might find helpful.