Bushfire ignites insurance issues

Sandy and Gary Elwood are ready to rebuild. Picture: Bruce Huntwww.communitypix.com.au d422669
Sandy and Gary Elwood are ready to rebuild. Picture: Bruce Huntwww.communitypix.com.au d422669

She says insurers have still not learnt how to treat people facing tragedy. While some of the families affected or displaced by the Hills bushfire received insurance payouts weeks after, some are still battling with their insurers.

Ms Wallis said she was still waiting for insurance to come through to compensate for severe damage to her Mt Helena home.

‘This is a time of severe trauma for people and insurance companies still haven’t learnt to deal with that; the industry needs a good shake up,’ she said.

‘We’re lucky we had somewhere to go because there are people who don’t.

On the west side of Stoneville Road is Sandy and Garry Elwood.

Describing the past six months as the hardest period of their lives, Mr and Mrs Elwood still maintain they are among the lucky ones.

Six months on from the bushfire that razed their home of 25 years, the Elwood family are ready to rebuild and next month will move into a shed on the land where their house once stood.

With much relief, they received their insurance payout within three weeks of losing everything. Some of their neighbours who went through the same ordeal in January are still waiting for insurance companies to pay them out.

‘A lot of people are having huge problems, but we have been lucky,’ Mrs Elwood said.

The owners of the empty block across the road from them are still waiting for an insurance payment. Some residents are also seeking legal advice.

Mundaring Bendigo Bank finance officer Karen Beale has been co-ordinating donations and community affairs meetings since January.

She said it was disappointing to see some families in limbo while they battled their insurance companies.

‘I feel like a lot of them are being bullied,’ she said. ‘They’re being pushed to the point where they’ll just accept a lower offer.

According to the Insurance Council of Australia, more than 300 insurance claims were lodged after the Hills bushfire and more than 99 per cent were finalised.

Early estimates of insurance losses are more than $15 million.

A spokesman for Insurance Council of Australia said protocols were in place for dealing with traumatised clients.

‘When the ICA declares a catastrophe, it establishes a taskforce, activates its disaster hotline, with member companies prioritising claims,’ he said.

‘For the Perth Hills bushfire catastrophe, insurance companies prioritised claims, particularly from policyholders whose properties were destroyed or suffered significant damage.’

The Shire of Mundaring plans to send out a survey to residents to document their experiences.