Saturday 22 June 2013

How To Make a Home or Business Insurance Claim

    Bow River Near Prince's Island, June 21, 2013

Early yesterday morning my wife and I were evacuated from our home along with thousands of other Calgary residents. My office is closed after the City issued an order for the controlled evacuation of the downtown area.

Although people living near the Elbow River are starting to return home this morning, it looks like the evacuation order for areas along the Bow River will remain in place for the time being. Power may not be restored in downtown for a few days, so many offices and businesses will remain closed.

Watching Global TV yesterday we saw incredible scenes of devastation, with many residential streets  covered in water. There was muddy water flowing around numerous warehouses and commercial buildings, as well as trucks and other vehicles half submerged.

Thousands of Alberta homeowners and tenants will be looking to their insurers to cover the damage to their houses, gardens, and possessions. Many business owners will have claims for property damage and business interruption. Insurance company claims departments will be inundated with new claims, and it will be difficult for people to get answers to their questions about what is covered, how to document a claim, and how much (if anything) the insurance company will pay.

The most important thing right now is to give your insurer written notice of your claim right away. Delay in giving notice won't just delay the resolution of your claim; it can provide grounds to deny the claim altogether. The insurance company has the right to inspect the damage as soon as possible (even if it doesn't have enough adjusters available to handle all the claims right now).

Send your notice by fax or email, as these methods provide a record of the date and time notice was received.

The initial notice should be short and sweet. You don't need to provide any details about what happened or what was damaged - that can come later. All you need to do is provide the name of the insured, the policy number, and the address of the insured premises. For date of loss, you should say "June 21, 2013 and continuing", as the damage may be ongoing.
Avoid using terms like "flood" or "water damage", as flooding from water sources outside the building is excluded from many policies. At this point, all you need to do is provide notice of a "loss" or "property damage" at the insured address.

If you know that your property is in an affected area but you can't inspect the damage because an evacuation order is still in place, you should send notice of claim anyway. It is very important to provide notice as soon as possible, and you don't need to state any details or estimate the amount of your claim yet.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada has stated publicly that there is no insurance coverage for "overland flooding" in Canada. This may or may not apply to your claim - coverage always depends on the wording of the policy, and insurance policies are subject to interpretation. Legal principles of interpretation generally favour the insured. You should not give up on a potentially substantial claim based on a general statement from an insurance industry organisation that may not apply to your policy and your situation.

Many policies do include coverage for back up from storm or sanitary sewers. If water entered your home from floor drains, showers, tubs, or toilets, at least part of the damage could be covered.

There may be other provisions in your policy that bring parts of the damage into coverage, even if your insurer is telling you it is excluded. You should still send the insurer notice of claim, photograph the damage thoroughly, and keep all your receipts.

Contact Richard Hayles at Billington Barristers:
(403) 930-4106

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Any legal information provided is general in nature and may not apply to particular situations. It does not constitute legal opinion or advice. Please consult your lawyer regarding your specific legal issue.


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  2. Thanks for sharing the process on how to claim business insurance.