Flood of victims claim insurance

Calamitous destruction and loss of life in the wake of the fierce storms that hit KZN this week. Picture: Tumi Pakkies/ Independent Newspapers

Calamitous destruction and loss of life in the wake of the fierce storms that hit KZN this week. Picture: Tumi Pakkies/ Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 8, 2024


Durban — Insurance claims are flooding in from across the country as South Africans attempt to salvage whatever they can after weeks of deadly storms, the latest a tornado which ripped through parts of Durban leaving death and destruction in its wake.

Experts say that as treacherous weather becomes the norm, it’s vital to have adequate cover to shield yourself from the effects of climate change. MiWay spokesperson and legal disputes manager Siyakha Masiye said so far this province had suffered the brunt of the stormy weather.

“Unfortunately in KZN, for those that have suffered losses, we are recording total losses: the roof is blown off, buildings totally destroyed, there’s nothing to salvage,” he said.

From Cape Town to Kariega and across KwaZulu-Natal, government and civil society had implemented humanitarian interventions to help survivors rebuild their lives after weeks of deadly weather as the death toll continues to rise.

Masiye said MiWay was doing its best to expedite the claims process because many people had lost their access to communication and all their documents.

“From the past, what we've learned to do is we try to identify the affected areas and we get people on the ground. So we get an assessor, whether it’s a vehicle or house assessor, to be in and around that area.”

He said while the number of claims from KZN was currently lower than they had anticipated, many of their clients had enquired about storage facilities to safeguard their belongings.

“We’ve had a lot of calls from clients asking if we can put their stuff into storage because a lot of people are looting. So in the midst of that tragedy, some people are seeing opportunity.”

Apart from paying out claims to home and car owners, some insurance companies also provide their clients with temporary accommodation if needed. Masiye said at MiWay it was part of the normal policy and not additional cover.

Karen Rimmer, from financial services brokerage PSG, said despite the increasingly bad weather people did not specifically need to take out insurance for disasters because they were not something that could be anticipated.

“To simplify it, if there is a lot of rain, your damage normally is water damage and you're covered for that. But if you have a history of a lot of claims for one specific thing, or you live in an area that is very low or below the flood line, that would be specifically excluded.”

Rimmer said a company could simply ask you to pay a higher premium or higher excess because of your risk profile. She also warned that insurers around the globe were suffering because of the additional damages they had to deal with because of changing weather patterns.

“Those are the same insurers that we use in South Africa to reinsure some of our losses. When they look at South Africa and they see the decay in infrastructure, they’re even more worried, which means that the reinsurance prices are going up extensively. And that is brought over to us and our insurers. All of these things play a role and that’s why we’re currently seeing that premiums are going up fairly extensively. It’s much bigger than South Africa, but I think we’re getting it worse because of our infrastructure failures,” said Rimmer.

While it was difficult for individuals to do anything about roads and drainage, they could take precautions to make them more risk averse.

“We still have a responsibility within our own environment. Things like cleaning your gutter, making sure your vehicles or outside furniture and things are under a roof or covered.”

Rimmer said a reputable broker would ensure that you were adequately covered and help you understand your risks which are determined by where you live, your job and whether or not you have your own business.

“People are under pressure so economically they can’t just afford higher and higher insurance premiums. Sometimes you need to say, ‘I have to self-insure some of it or I cannot pay a higher premium, therefore I might have to pay a higher excess’.”

She said a broker would help you to get the most cover for what you can afford.

“We tend to insure things like laptops and mobile phones and those premiums are quite high …”

Independent on Saturday