Knysna fire victims seek damages after insurance shock

2017-09-18 19:01
(Gallo Images)

(Gallo Images)

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Cape Town – Knysna residents whose homes were lost or damaged in devastating fires in June have turned to lawyers after finding out they were underinsured.

The fires ripped through Knysa and Plettenberg Bay, resulting in the deaths of seven people and destroying at least 1 000 homes.

While many breathed a sigh of relief at having their homes and contents insured at the time, it subsequently emerged that it was not quite smooth sailing.

READ: Cost of Cape storm, Knysna fires likely billions more than R4bn - chamber

In some cases, residents found out that their policy was insufficient to meet their needs.

Lawyer Donald Curtis, who is one of around 20 attorneys in Knysna, is dealing with a number of insurance-related cases that he had not seen this time last year.

He told News24 on Monday that most of his cases involved claims for damages against insurance brokers.

'Some brokers sell you a wonderful idea'

Insurance brokers, as financial advisers governed by a code of conduct, had to do a financial needs analysis, ask relevant questions and recommend the appropriate policies.

"Some brokers sell you a wonderful idea. The minute you have signed that policy, they get that commission and you never see them again."

In one instance, a Knysna resident whose house burnt down had to pay a penalty on the final settlement amount because the premium paid for many years had been based on incorrect details.

'No financial needs analysis'

Another case involved a foreign national who bought a holiday home in the seaside town. 

He faced a shortfall in having to rebuild his home because the insurance was apparently based on the home's market value.

Curtis said a financial needs analysis was necessary to take into account the actual cost of rebuilding a home.

READ: After Knysna, being fire-wary has become a burning issue

Residents have also shared their woes about late payouts and partial settlements on various Facebook groups.

Earlier this month, the Knysna municipality held an insurance open day for affected households and businesses.

The aim was to provide support and assistance with claim queries, by engaging directly with insurance companies, the insurance ombudsman and other relevant parties.

Read more on:    george  |  knysna fires  |  fires  |  insurance

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