Hurricane Dorian sparks rise in fridge freezer claims from Maritimers

Spoilage occurred after many were left without power for days

Hurricane Dorian sparks rise in fridge freezer claims from Maritimers

Catastrophe & Flood

By Bethan Moorcraft

When people think of hurricanes or similar catastrophic weather events, the mind’s eye normally wanders to fallen trees, damaged roofs, flooded basements, destroyed yards, power outages, and debris-strewn streets. Generally speaking, these are the most common weather-driven claims to land on adjusters’ desks.

On September 07, Hurricane Dorian smashed into the Maritimes as a Category 2 storm, causing total chaos across Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland & Labrador. Its damaging winds of up to 145 km/h caused extensive damage to the region. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) recently came out with an estimate of $105 million in insured damages and that doesn’t take into account the huge economic loss accumulated through smaller, non-insured damages.

One of the biggest issues to arise when Dorian struck was power outage. More than 100,000 homes across the Maritimes were left without power for days during the unwelcome visit. This resulted in a rather unprecedented amount of fridge freezer claims, as homeowners looked to recover losses sustained by food spoilage.

Amanda Dean, vice-president Atlantic for the IBC issued the following advice to homeowners after the storm: “Food spoilage is in a typical insurance policy, but if you are just making a food spoilage claim it may be subject to your deductible. So, you’re going to want to ask that question to your insurance representative when you call.”

And those questions have certainly been rolling in. Georgie Fleck, a broker at AA Munro’s Pictou office in Nova Scotia, told Insurance Business: “There have been a lot of fridge freezer claims due to power outages during Hurricane Dorian. Different insurance companies are taking different approaches on the issue. Pembridge, for example, has waived all deductibles and hasn’t charged on those claims – but they’re the only ones who have done that. Others are waiting to see if Dorian’s going to be considered a catastrophe before they take a stance on those claims. As brokers, we’re having to find out from each market when one of these claims comes in, how they’re going to interpret that claim today, and what we should tell our clients.

“We’ve had some clients who thought it might be a good idea to put a claim through for $70 worth of food spoilage. That’s not a good idea, and it’s our job to explain that. But then we had one fellow, who had a huge deep freezer full of lobster and scallops, so you can imagine the cost of that. We’ve also had some seniors, to whom a total freezer stock loss is a huge amount of money. It’s been an interesting time.”

One thing that has really come to light in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian is the positivity and effectiveness of the insurance industry’s response. Michael Stack, CEO at Archway Insurance, said many of the recovery and response stories to come out of Dorian have been “fabulous.” Speaking with Insurance Business at the Atlantic Canada Brokers Convention in Moncton, he said: “What a fabulous job our industry has done in responding to such a large event – and that includes the brokers, the insurers, adjusting firms, restoration firms, everybody.

“We’ve been talking to clients who’ve had claims. Yes, they might be small fridge freezer claims, but they’re submitting that information on a Wednesday, and receiving direct e-transfer payments into their bank accounts by the Friday. Our industry sometimes struggles with public reputation – there’s some scepticism about whether or not we’ll pay, or whether or not the paper you’re buying is worth the money – but positive stories like that to come out of Hurricane Dorian show that our industry has really done a fantastic job at quickly responding to claims.”

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