A roadmap to insurance claims and rebuilding after a devastating tornado

A home in Tongaat.

A home in Tongaat.

Published Jun 11, 2024



THE recent tornado in Tongaat, Seatides, Desainagar and certain parts of La Mercy has left a trail of devastation despite only lasting a few minutes, highlighting the critical role of insurance in disaster recovery.

As affected residents begin to rebuild their lives, understanding insurance policies and the claims process are crucial. Our guide offers a step-by-step approach to navigating insurance claims, ensuring you receive the necessary support every step of the way.

Step 1: Review your insurance policy

Begin by thoroughly reviewing your short-term insurance policy to confirm it covers natural disasters. Key components to look for include “household contents” and “building cover” which are essential for protecting your personal belongings and property structure. Ensure your policy also includes coverage for temporary accommodation if your home becomes uninhabitable, and for security to be provided to guard your home whilst in this condition.

Step 2: Contact your broker or insurer

After reviewing your policy, reach out to your insurance broker or insurer directly. Brokers can provide valuable assistance throughout the claims process, helping you understand your coverage and negotiate with insurers. If you don't have a broker, contact your insurer directly for guidance.

Step 3: Lodge a claim

Notify your insurer as soon as possible after the event. This can be done through your broker, over the phone, via the insurer's website, or their mobile app. Have your policy number and details about the incident ready when you contact your insurer. Given the high volume of claims, it's crucial to act quickly to secure your place in the queue for the earliest assessment.

Step 4: Understand the claims process

Your insurer will process your claim and in all probability conduct an investigation. You may need to provide a detailed list of your damaged belongings – a good idea would be to start making notes of the items you either cannot find anymore that you know you owned or if damaged to the extent that the items may not be used anymore. The initial payout you may receive from your insurer will be based on the cash value of the items, which accounts for depreciation based on the item's age or replacement value depending on your policy wording.

Step 5: Advocate for your rights

Supposing your claim is denied, you have the right to challenge the decision and request a full explanation. You can also file a complaint against your insurance company if it fails to meet its legal obligations under the terms of the policy with the Ombudsman. Note however there is a process that needs to be followed before approaching the Ombudsman.

In the wake of a disaster, insurance serves as a vital safety net, providing financial relief when it's most needed. Understanding your insurance policy and the claims process is essential to ensuring you receive the support required to rebuild your life. Act swiftly, review your policy, and advocate for your rights to navigate the aftermath effectively.

By following these steps, you can better manage the complexities of the insurance process and focus on recovering and rebuilding with peace of mind.

Sanjith Hannuman

Sanjith Hannuman, the Managing Director of AIB, is a professional advisor with a specialisation in pension and provident fund consulting. His expertise extends to both local and international governments, as well as major global corporations. Hannuman is also an associate of the Financial Planning Institute of South Africa.


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