Know Risk is a community education program designed by the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) to improve our understanding of insurance and how it relates to managing the many risks we all face in life.
Making an insurance claim: some tips for small business owners
When you’re put in a position of having to make a claim on your insurance, it can be traumatic. It’s not the claims process itself that is traumatic — in fact, making a claim is usually quite simple — but whatever event has happened to make you need to make an insurance claim is typically unpleasant and can often carry with it significant emotion and stress.
As such, it can be helpful to know what to expect and how to go about making a claim. When you are armed with this knowledge, it can make an often painful and frustrating event that little bit easier to deal with.
Report the incident
This might seem obvious, but call the police and emergency services if a serious accident has taken place or if your business is essentially a crime scene — for example, if a robbery, some other kind of theft, malicious damage or vandalism has been committed. If the safety of your business premises has been compromised, do not enter and instead act on the advice of police or other emergency services personnel.
This may seem less obvious, but one of the best things you can do in the event you need to make a claim is to advise your insurance company or broker of the situation as soon as possible. Even if you don’t have all the information necessary, it’s good to chat to your insurer about what’s happened ASAP. They can then explain the claims process for you and clue you in to any steps you may need to take or evidence you’ll need to gather.
Chatting to your insurer or broker immediately after a claimable event has taken place can also be quite calming. You’ll typically find that claims personnel and brokers are quite understanding in times of trauma or accidents. They are there to help you, so you should certainly make the most of the advice they can offer.
In general, it is best to submit your insurance claim as close to the event as possible. Doing so will ensure that the details of the claimable event do not become fuzzy or difficult to corroborate, and it will also ensure any time limits will not be breached.
Things you should take note of
As soon as you can after a loss or event, it is important that you note as much information as possible about what’s happened so that you can pass these details on to your insurer.
Obviously, the relevant details here will vary depending on what type of insurance policy you have, but in general, these are some things you should try to take note of/do as soon as possible:
- The time and date of the event
- The specific location
- A description of what happened
- Details of anything you have done to minimise the loss
- An estimate of the loss
- Eyewitness accounts and contact details of any eyewitnesses
- Photos — take photos of anything you think might be relevant, but particularly any damage
Read your PDS
If you’re unsure about how the claims process works or what you need to do, locate your insurance PDS. Insurers will always detail how to go about making a claim in this document. The PDS will also note any excesses you need to pay and how long you can expect to wait before your claim is processed. If you use a broker, give them a call.
Tell the truth
While it might be easier to gloss over some of the detail or leave pieces of information out of your claim, this is never a good idea. Leaving things out tends to come back to bite you where insurance claims are concerned. Even if you are concerned that your claim will be denied, you must still tell the truth and include any details that are relevant for the insurer to know.
Some pre-claim tips
The claims process will typically be a lot swifter and smoother for you if you have done the following prior to entering into an insurance contract or throughout the duration of your insurance contract:
- Read the PDS — we know we mentioned this above, but you should take note of what’s covered and what’s excluded in any potential policy to ensure you don’t go through the claims process only to find what you’re claiming for isn’t actually covered.
- Pay your premium — it might seem like a no-brainer, but if you don’t pay your premium, your claim will be denied.
- Review your policy each year at renewal to make sure you’re still covered for everything you need to be covered for.
- Update your insurer or broker if any of your business’s details change.
- Take photos of your assets.
- Make sure there is a system in place, such as saving to an external cloud, whereby you can access computer logs.
- Keep copies of all receipts and invoices — you never know when your insurer will need you to produce them.