I have been involved in the insurance industry’s response to each and every natural disaster since category 4 Cyclone Ada hit North Queensland in 1970. LMI has continued this tradition, responding to every major disaster since the Victorian Gas Crisis in 1998.
Never in these 40 years have I, or any of the LMI team, seen anything like what the insurance industry is trying to address following the first 6 weeks of 2011. To date, more than 150,000 claims have been reported to insurers as a result of the flooding and storms in Queensland, Victoria, parts of New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory, plus bushfire claims out of WA and NSW. This is on top of all the day-to-day claims that the insurance industry deals with.
To put that into perspective, in 2010 just over 400,000 claims were reported and that was above the norm due to a massive hail storm in Melbourne in March and, 6 weeks later, an equally large hail storm in Perth. These two storms stretched the industry but in the main, we got through it, despite not really having had time to recover from the 2009 Victorian bushfires. In 2011 we have had 37.5% of 2010’s claims in only 6 weeks.
There is no escaping the fact that the huge amount of claims reported in 2011 is unprecedented in Australia’s history. Normally, claims teams could get assistance from our cousins in New Zealand but they are dealing with huge numbers of losses themselves arising from the two terrible earthquakes that hit Christchurch and surrounds 6 months apart. Some claims experts responding to the first earthquake have been tragically killed or injured in the latest earthquake.
While every effort is being made by LMI, claims officers, loss adjusters, hydrologists, builders etc. all across the industry, it is simply not humanly possible for us or anyone in the industry to maintain our normal level of service. For anyone to say otherwise, is not truthful and gives false hope. Even where we can, our reports are not being processed by the rest of the industry despite resources from outside Australia being seconded in.
We appreciate that this is cold comfort to anyone with a pending claim and fully understand that your own claim is of paramount importance to you, however, we must ask for your patience and trust that we are doing everything humanly possible, including working long hours, 7 days a week, to attend to all of our customers’ needs as promptly and professionally as possible. Much of the insurance profession is doing the same.
We thank you for your patience at this difficult time. With new instructions moving forward we will continue to give priority to our National Account clients and to clients that support us during the non disaster times. It is only on the basis that you understand the situation that confronts us that we are able to accept any further assignments for the next few weeks until we address the backlog.
Once again, I thank you for your ongoing understanding and support, and thank the LMI team for their super human efforts.