Consumers advised to review insurance covers amid freak weather conditions
While South Africa still counts the cost of devastating drought conditions; Bloemfontein in the Free State was battered by freak hailstorms on Thursday 20 October that left a trail of destruction in its wake. Golf-ball sized hail stones ripped through car windscreens, buildings and windows, and smashed huge dents into vehicles caught in the fray. Freak hail storms in the last four years caused severe property and vehicle damage, collectively costing the insurance industry a staggering R2.5billion in losses.
In the wake of increasing freak weather conditions, insurance brokerage and risk advisory, Aon South Africa is advising South Africans to ensure that they are comprehensively covered for such damage, particularly when it comes to motor insurance.
“While most buildings insurance policies cover damage cause by hailstorms, this is not always the case with motor insurance. In the wake of some of the most bizarre hail storms in the last few years, the need to review insurance covers to make sure you are covered for weather-related catastrophes cannot be overstated,” says Mandy Barrett of Aon South Africa.
Many consumers are feeling the economic pinch and looking to reduce their insurance premiums by opting for lower cost insurance options. What they often fail to realise is that the reason a particular policy is cheaper than another is that the coverage is less comprehensive. On lower cost options, certain covers are excluded entirely. In some cases you may need to ‘top up’ with a list of ‘optional’ extra covers, with an additional premium charged for each. Hail damage is often one of the benefits excluded, while other examples are windscreens, tyres and rims and so on.
“Hail damage to a vehicle can prove very costly to fix as the damage is often widespread across the entire vehicle. The body work may need to be repaired, and possibly even front and rear windscreens, light fittings, bumpers and so on. With most vehicle parts being imported and given the poor Rand/Dollar exchange rate, the repair of a hail-damaged vehicle can come with an eye-watering price tag. In some instances, vehicles can be written-off completely as the cost to repair outweighs the replacement value of the vehicle. If you only find out after the fact that hail damage is not included in your policy as an insured peril, or that you neglected to take out the additional cover, you’re likely to find yourself in a world of financial pain,” says Mandy.
Aon offers the following advice to minimise your exposure to hail damage:
- Never assume you are covered. The help of a professional insurance broker will prove invaluable in assessing your needs and ensuring that you have the right cover, and understand the implications of all the terms and conditions contained in your policy. Ensure that your vehicles are comprehensively insured for market value.
- Subscribe to a weather service or get onto your insurer’s SMS database to receive hail alerts.
- Avoid travelling in a heavy downpour or hail storm – hail damage will be worse if your car is moving. Where it is practical and safe to do so, pull over or try and get to a place of safety, that’s undercover as quickly as possible and wait it out.
- If a road is flooded, don’t attempt to drive through it. There are countless cases of drivers thinking it’s a puddle, only to be swept away.
- Do not park under trees – falling branches pose a real risk in a powerful hail storm. Find secure shelter under a solid structure if you can.
- If you are indoors during a hail storm, avoid skylights and windows which could be shattered by hail stones.
- Check with your broker that your house and contents are insured for their replacement value. Your homeowners policy will cover you for hail damage to your roof, gutters and other fixed structures up to your policy limits. Always remember that the original condition of your structures will be taken into consideration when the insurer assesses your claim. If the damage is a result of poor maintenance and wear and tear, you could find yourself on the end of a repudiated claim. This is because your insurance covers sudden, unforeseen damage and not damage as a result of wear in tear. However, if you regularly maintain your building and roof, and it’s damaged by hail, your insurer will repair/replace the damaged items.
“It is essential to review the terms and levels of your household and motor insurance on a regular basis so that you are not financially compromised in a worst case scenario. Given the economic climate, it’s understandable that many people are looking to save costs. The best advice is to avoid a D-I-Y approach to your insurance and avoid any gamble on your cover. Here an expert insurance broker plays an invaluable role in helping you to properly compare insurance products from different insurers to get to a well-rounded insurance portfolio that addresses every eventuality. A broker will ensure that your specific needs are taken into account, your budget is met and ensures that you’re not left without cover that you thought you had, and that could leave you financially compromised in the event of a claim,” concludes Mandy.
Aon South Africa