We’ve all seen the dramatic video footage of many parts of Australia under metres of flood waters.
Cyclones, tropical lows and other weather variances have been responsible for everything from dumping deluges to flash flooding across areas that have been bone dry for at least a decade. Some say La Niña and global warming mean that this type of weather could be here to stay, which means we need to be prepared for future flooding that leaves a huge amount of damage in its soggy wake including to our cars.
No, we’re not talking about giving the engine too much choke. We’re talking about the more serious casualties of flooding rains and huge seas: cars swept off causeways, flooded bridges, vehicles engulfed as giant waves crash over sea walls. If your car was last seen swirling down a flooded river or languishing at home in a water-logged garage, what do you do next? Unfortunately, if your car is not insured there is very little you can do to recover the cost of your vehicle. If your car is insured, however, you need to know exactly what your policy covers and what, if any, costs are incurred.
Who’s at fault?
More often than not, it comes down to the individual circumstance. For example, an optimistic motorist takes on a flooded causeway, only to discover that Mother Nature’s four-wheel drive mechanism is a heck of a lot stronger. Compare this scenario with a motorist simply caught off guard by flash flooding and you will see that there are any number of reasons a claim can be lodged for flood damage to a vehicle. Luckily for motorists, insurers cover a wide range of flood-related damages claims but whether the incident is treated as an “at fault” claim varies between insurers. This may or may not affect the status of your driver rating so it is worth checking out.
Make sure you’re not out of pocket
Examine the fine print on your car insurance policy to see whether there are any circumstances where your policy won’t cover you. For the most part, provided the damage or loss to your car was not intentional or fraudulent, you will be covered with any flood or water damage claim you make. This is not to say you should feel confident crossing swollen rivers in your sportscar but you can rest assured that, should the worst happen, it’s unlikely you will be hung out to dry by your car insurer.
What to do if your claim is rejected
If you're at all concerned about your claim being rejected, gather as much evidence about the claim as you can, such as photos, eyewitness accounts, information about the peak time of the flood waters and time of your journey. This helps you mount your case to the insurance company. If your claim is rejected but you wish to have the matter taken further you must first request an internal review of the claim from your insurer. If, after this review, the claim is still rejected you can have it reviewed for free by the Insurance Ombudsman Service (IOS). This is an independent body which has the power to make binding decisions by which the insurer must abide. You can contact the ombudsman online at www.insuranceombudsman.com.au