This information focuses on business insurance. If you need help with making an insurance claim for personal insurance, you can get advice from:
National Debt Helpline: 1800 007 007. You can speak to a financial counsellor to get advice. If necessary, they can refer you for a face to face appointment with a financial counsellor near you.
The National Debt Helpline website provides a step-by-step guide to the process.
Insurance Law Service: 1300 663 464 to speak to a lawyer if you need legal advice
If you have property that has been damaged or have experienced a loss of income due to the bushfires you may want to make an insurance claim on cover for your business. The information below is a simple step-by-step guide on what to do.
Is your business still viable?
Can your business recover?
You may need to work out whether your business is still viable. You can do this by:
Talking to your accountant
How to make a business insurance claim(s)
Step 1 Take pictures, write down details and find your insurance policy (ies)
If you can:
- Take photos of any damage to your small business including stock and equipment (or any other property owned by the business and insured)
- Find inventory records and other relevant computer records
- If you or an employee has been injured you should keep details
Do not start destroying, repairing or moving things unless you have to (for example, because it is dangerous). The insurance assessor needs to see the damage as it is.
If you can stop further damage happening you should do so. For example, you may need to make emergency repairs to stop further damage. If you do this, take before and after photos and make a note of why you did it. Keep copies of invoices related to the repairs.
If you need to move or use damaged property, take before and after photos and keep details of the reasons.
Step 2 Work out what insurance you have that you could claim on
Don’t worry if you have lost your insurance policies in the bushfires or for any other reason.
- If you remember the name of your insurer, just call them and give your details and they will give you details of your policy. You can also ask for a copy of the policy.
- If you do not know the name of your insurer you can call the Insurance Council of Australia on 1800 728 228 and they will help find the information for you.
- You can also check with your insurance broker (if you have one).
These are five types of insurance policies that might be relevant after a bushfire:
- Worker’s compensation – insurance that protects employees in the event of sickness or an accident while at work.
- Small business property – if your small business building, contents and/or stock has been damaged from an insured event.
- Small business theft and burglary – to cover loss or damage due to burglary/theft.
- Commercial vehicle insurance – to cover damage to a truck or other vehicle used by the business.
- Business interruption – when you cannot trade due to an event, for example a bushfire.
You may have other relevant insurance and you should check your records and/or talk to your insurance broker.
Worker’s compensation insurance
Note: Claiming on worker’s compensation insurance is not covered in this information. There are different requirements depending on the State or Territory your business is in. There are also review processes available. If you are unsure get legal advice.
Step 3 Make a claim
Contact your insurer and make a claim. The insurer must not discourage you from making a claim.
The insurer should process your claim and their next step is usually to send an assessor to check the damage and decide on the likely costs of the damage.
If you are in urgent financial need of the benefits offered under your insurance policy, tell the insurer. The insurer may be able to help by:
- Fast-tracking the assessment and decision
- Making advance payments within five business days of you demonstrating a need for help to alleviate immediate hardship
Step 4 The claims process
As the bushfires have affected many communities, a lot of people are making claims on their insurance. Insurers may take up to 12 months to decide whether to deny or accept a claim. Even with expected delays, you should still keep pushing your insurance claim with the insurance company.
Make sure the assessor can get access to assess the damage.
If you have records for the value of your stock give those records to the assessor or insurer.
Provide other relevant information requested by the insurer.
Step 5 Delays and rejected claims—making a complaint
If you are unhappy with any decision or delay by the insurance company you can make a complaint. The complaint can be made to the person you are dealing with at the insurer or to the insurer’s specialist complaints department. You can make the complaint verbally or in writing.
The insurer must respond within 45 days from the date you made the complaint.
You need to make it really clear to the insurer you have a complaint. For example, say:
I have a complaint about the delay in processing my claim.
You should have a response from the insurance company within 45 days. If you don’t get a response or are unsatisfied with it, make a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA). AFCA is a free and independent dispute resolution service. It can make a decision that is binding on the insurer.
To find a contact at the insurer to escalate your complaint:
- The AFCA website lists the specialist complaints contacts for insurance companies. The website lists the phone, email and address of the insurer.
To make a complaint to AFCA:
- P: 1800 931 678 (freecall) or www.afca.org.au.
Step 6 Settling your claim(s)
It is really important to get advice before accepting any settlement claim from an insurer. You can call us for advice (Ph: 1800 413 828).
There are a number of possible things to check before accepting a settlement:
Cash settlement or rebuild/replace/repair – avoid a cash settlement unless:
you are sure (and have your own independent quotes) that the amount will cover your costs;
you have it in writing from your lender (if the property is mortgaged) that they will not take the money to reduce your loan instead of allowing you to fix and replace the damaged goods or property;
you are aware and accept the risk that specific repairs will not be guaranteed by the insurer;
you are aware and accept the risk that any disputes with the repairer cannot be brought up with the insurance company.
Take care with partial settlements. Make sure the cost of repairing everything is covered.
Make sure you have claimed for everything you can. Before accepting a settlement look at your policy and review the damage.
If you accepted a settlement of your claim within one month of a bushfire disaster, you can request that the insurer reviews that settlement if you later believe it was not complete or accurate. You have 12 months from the settlement to request a review.
Warning: This is for information only. Do not rely on it as legal advice. It is recommended that you seek specific advice on your own situation.