THREE months after thousands of Queensland homes and businesses were devastated by floods, Legal Aid Queensland is encouraging people who have had insurance claims denied, refused or partly approved to contact them for free legal advice.
Consumer lawyer Paul Holmes, who is heading Legal Aid Queensland’s flood response, said many Queenslanders were experiencing delays with their insurance claims due to the sheer size of the flooding event, with some people still waiting to see an assessor.
“People have called us for advice because they haven’t had an assessor out to their property yet, or the insurer hasn’t assessed their claim, or there has been a delay in the assessor providing their report to the insurer,” he said.
“We’re also being contacted by people who have had their claims refused or partially refused.
“Other property owners have received expert reports from hydrologists or engineers and have questions about these complex documents.
“This is the time when people should be seeking help so they maximise their legal rights and options.
“If you’ve got questions, or feel like your insurer has got it wrong, give us a call on our Natural Disaster Legal Help Line to access free legal advice.”
The organisation’s consumer protection lawyers have helped thousands of Queenslanders affected by some of the state’s worst natural disasters including Cyclone Larry, Cyclone Yasi, Cyclone Debbie and the 2011 Brisbane floods, just to name a few, and have extensive experience in dealing with insurance issues and protecting people’s legal rights.
Mr Holmes said the top legal issues currently affecting Queenslanders following the floods included:
- Delays: People are calling us about claims that have not been assessed by their insurer, or where they haven’t had an assessor come out to have a look at their property, or where there has been a delay in the assessor providing their report to the insurer.
- Questions: People have asked their insurers questions and they haven’t heard anything back or are unsure what the answers mean.
- Expert reports: People have received an expert’s report, maybe from a hydrologist or engineer, and they don’t understand what it means or the implications for their claims.
- Claims being refused: Some people have had their claims refused by their insurer, and others have had them partially refused, or partially accepted and they want to know their rights.
- Claims have been approved, but… Even if claims are approved, people have questions about whether they should accept cash settlements or feel they are being forced to take a cash settlement, about the scope of works they’ve been given by the insurer not completely reflecting the work that needs to be done, or not wanting to rebuild in their current location.
- Problems with temporary accommodation: Many people are living in temporary accommodation following the floods and have called us for advice about their legal rights.
- Struggling with debt: We’ve heard from people who are struggling to pay their mortgage, car loan or other loans as a result of the floods.
- Family law issues – Accommodation changes and flood damage in the community have affected people’s routines regarding shared care and parenting of their children.
Legal Aid Queensland has free publications available on its website to help people navigate insurance issues following a natural disaster including:
- “When disaster strikes—cyclones, storms and floods” a comprehensive guide to making an insurance claim after a natural disaster, and
- “Dealing with insurance and damage when a natural disaster hits”, a free podcast as part of the ‘Law for All’ series, available at www.legalaid.qld.gov.au or where you get your podcasts.
If you have questions about any of these issues, call Legal Aid Queensland’s Natural Disaster Legal Help Line on 1300 527 700 for free legal advice.