Earthquake claims

Has your house been affected by the Christchurch earthquake?

We have assisted hundreds of Cantabrians with their earthquake claims.  We have an office in Christchurch so that we can help our customers and the people of Christchurch to ensure that they get what they are entitled to.

No one could have predicted that more than five years later, so many earthquake claims could remain unresolved.  The unresolved claims fall into the following categories:

  • Cases in which EQC (Earthquake Commission) has paid out its full obligations and the insured people are fighting the insurance company over the repair scope for repairs or replacement of the house;
  • Cases where EQC is alleging that the house can be repaired for less than the $100,000 cap;
  • Cases where either EQC or the insurance company claims to have completed repairs but the repairs are either substandard or do not meet the policy standard. In particular, there have been attempts by EQC and insurers to repair to a lesser standard than the “as new” requirements under the policies and EQC Act.

This has led to significant litigation in the Courts.  Many people have found that the only way to force insurers to pay what they are required to pay is to get the matter before the Courts and into the hands of a Judge.

Building standards must be met

Almost all insurance policies require the insurance company to repair the house to an as new condition.  So no matter how old the house is, the insurance company must pay for a new one than meets current building standards.  The same applies to EQC under the Earthquake Commission Act.

Both insurance policies and the EQC legislation require that a house be repaired to “as new” or sometimes “when new” standard. This is not the standard it was immediately before the earthquake. It also means that building practices or a finished job that is not the same as would be expected in a new building does not meet the policy standard or the standard under the Act.

Under Cap Claims

Five years after the earthquakes, there are still many houses that EQC has said are under cap that are well over cap.  It defies belief that EQC could have claimed that some of these houses are under cap, only to admit that the repairs are well over cap when challenged.

Faced with this debacle, EQC has recently been pushing many claims over cap, and passing them to insurers.  However, that will not be the end of the struggle.  The insurer will then need to be forced to repair the house properly.

What should you do:

  • If your house is still under cap, ask EQC whether it will be put over cap;
  • If EQC does not agree to place the house over cap, you will need to get your own expert report from an engineer.
  • Armed with that report, it is Shine’s experience that the best process is to file proceedings in the High Court. Shine has not been involved in a single case where EQC has voluntarily put a house over cap without involving the Court.
  • If your house is over cap, you should still get your own advice to be sure that the insurance company is providing a proper repair solution. You don’t have to accept their engineer’s advice, and should not until you have your own independent engineering advice.

High Court Earthquake List

After the earthquakes the High Court set up a special division to look after earthquake cases.  The process that is in place is about timetables to progress resolution, almost always without the need for a trial.

Our experience is that the Earthquake List is a very effective process for progressing your case.  By filing in the Court it does not mean that you will be going to a full trial.  What it means is that the control is out of the hands of the insurance company and in the hands of the Court.  The Judge will set a timetable for progressing the case.  You can take control and escape any delays and denials by the insurance company.

Shine has a reputation for progressing cases rapidly and cost effectively to resolution, often without the need for a Court hearing.

Defective Repairs

If EQC or an insurance company has repaired your house or settled your claim based on MBIE guidelines, then it is very likely that your house has not been repaired to the standard you are entitled to under your policy or the EQC Act.

Whilst your house may look cosmetically okay, the defective repairs are likely to seriously affect the value of your house.  And of course if the repairs are substandard, there may be serious questions about whether they will last or whether your house is safe.

People who have had their houses repaired should have the repairs inspected and if the repairs are incomplete or defective, EQC or the insurance company should be required to do the job properly.

At Shine we have acted for many home-owners and businesses to ensure that EQC and their insurance company settle their claims as they are required.

Limitation

Court proceedings must be filed within six years and that time is rapidly approaching.  If you miss the deadline you lose your rights.

Some insurance companies have said that they will give customers more time, but our advice is to get filed in Court, don’t wait, and you will be sure that you won’t miss the deadline.

How can we help?

At Shine lawyers we have solicitors who specialise in these types of cases, and have previously represented insurance companies.  So we know how they operate and we have the expertise and knowledge to take these people on.

We are passionate about these cases and our many satisfied customers will gladly attest to our results.

Let us know of you have any questions, and we would be happy to talk to you, without obligation, about how we can help you take control from your insurance company and get what you are entitled to under your policy.

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