Parts of Johannesburg were battered on 13 November 2023 in a devastating hailstorm, with golf ball–sized hailstones wreaking havoc. The frequency of severe weather storms is increasing at an accelerated pace, with economic losses from natural disasters estimated at $313 billion in 2022 alone – with approximately 42% of losses covered by insurance, according to Aon’s 2023 Weather, Climate and Catastrophe Insight report.
The return of El Niño is set to continue until mid-2024 and brings disruptive weather and climate events: The cyclical weather phenomenon refers to the warm phase of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation climate pattern that is caused by warmer ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.
Insurance brokerage and risk advisory Aon South Africa warns South Africans to brace for continued weather extremities and to ensure their assets are covered for weather-related losses that are now leading claims causes. “The need to review insurance covers to make sure you are covered for weather-related catastrophes cannot be overstated,” says Mandy Barrett of Aon South Africa.
Aon offers the following advice for policyholders filing hailstorm damage claims:
- Confirm whether you are covered for hail damage on your motor and home insurance, as hail cover is excluded on certain insurance policies unless specified. The damage that can be caused by hail should not be underestimated.
- Assess hail damage as soon as possible and make a comprehensive list of all items and damage.
- Take photos of the damage if you can – this will be very helpful to the insurance assessor as well when they come to inspect the damage for repair purposes.
- Notify your broker or insurer of the claim as soon as possible – the timeframe is usually around 60 days, but it is wise to check your policy wording, as some insurers differ on this.
- Remember that some insurers work with pre-approved repair companies – check with your broker before you embark on any emergency repairs, or you could find yourself having to pay a larger excess or your settlement being less than expected.
- Due to high claims volumes, you could experience delays in repair due to the strain on the available capacity of service providers and a shortage of materials, especially as we head into the holiday season.
Consider the following to minimise your exposure to hail damage:
- Subscribe to a weather service or get onto your insurer’s SMS database to receive hail alerts.
- Avoid travelling in a heavy downpour or hailstorm. Pull over or try and get to a place of safety that is undercover as quickly as possible and wait it out.
- If a road is flooded, do not attempt to drive through it. There are countless cases of drivers thinking it is a puddle, only to be swept away.
- Do not park under trees – falling branches pose a real risk in a powerful storm. Find secure shelter under a solid structure if you can.
- If you are indoors during a hailstorm, avoid skylights, windows and doors.
“Our current climate is a stark reminder of just how vulnerable we are to weather catastrophes. It is essential to review the terms and levels of your household and motor insurance regularly so that you are not financially compromised in a worst-case scenario. A broker plays an invaluable role in the making of a well-rounded insurance portfolio that addresses every eventuality, takes your specific needs into account, and finds a solution that suits your pocket,” concludes Barrett.