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Winter Woes: How different Seasons Affect Insurance Claims

Dangerous stats beg for higher protection

An inescapable fact is that disasters caused by adverse weather conditions have risen six-fold in the last 70 years. This estimate is based on findings by ClimateWise, a conglomerate of some of the world’s largest companies. Equally unavoidable is that increasingly severe weather patterns influence insurance claims. Insurers conduct intensive research into the effects of global warming and insurance premiums must go up to enable them to cope with the burden of extreme weather threats.

Every province in South Africa experiences different seasonal trials, yet, ultimately the types of threat are the same, no matter what season brings them: thunderstorms, lightning, hail, flooding, earthquakes or tremors, drought and fires. It is, therefore, critical that you as a policyholder must be conversant with how this affects the terms and conditions of your policy. This will ensure that you are adequately covered against these perils.

Knowing your enemy

Being in the know means to be on guard and your insurance company expects this of you. If you have been found to be negligent, this will, unfortunately, affect your insurance claim. For the sake of brevity, we will cover mainly winter woes, as this is the season upon us in the Western Cape, but the recent drought and water crisis deserves brief coverage, too.

Mountain fires are inextricably linked to dry and hot conditions and homeowners on hillsides or near forests have experienced cruel losses. Property claims for Knysna and Plettenberg Bay have recently soared. Because thatched roofs, so popular in this province, or wooden structures are considered as higher fire risks, some insurance policies pose an additional excess payment in event of a claim. Always establish clearly what your policy includes or excludes. For example, fitting SABS-approved fire extinguishers may be a condition of cover.

The ill-effects of the drought have hit mainly farmers. In those instances, too, insurance companies lay down certain conditions. Farmers are expected to mitigate their risks to ensure successful claims. Risk management include cultivation techniques that improve water infiltration and restrict evaporation losses. Furthermore, farmers are advised to not plant crops on marginal lands; neither will they be in a position to claim for crops they didn’t plant because of adverse drought conditions.

While the Western Cape eagerly awaits a wet winter to wash away anxieties about farming crops and affected food prices, all policyholders must be keenly aware of the threat of flooding damage to property and vehicles. To ensure that both your homeowner’s policy and vehicle insurance offer adequate coverage, take note of the following tips to ensure your risk management is sufficient.

What can you do?

In the case of your home or other property assets, this concerns mainly maintenance-related damage:

  • Regularly check that the waterproofing and flashings on your roof have not deteriorated.
  • Repair or replace missing roof tiles to avoid unnecessary leaking damage.
  • Avoid or minimise damp problems by placing half a meter of paving along the perimeter of your home or other buildings.
  • Ensure proper drainage by keeping gutters clear of debris.
  • If your area is prone to lightning strikes, install lightning rods along the outside of the building.
  • In areas such as this, it is advisable to fit plugs with surge protection.
  • Keep proof of all maintenance that has been carried out.

Regarding winter woes on the road:

  • Check on and heed weather warnings and, whenever possible, avoid being on the road during such times.
  • If driving in heavy downpours, do not attempt to drive through a flooded area of the road.
  • Ensure that your tyre tread is not worn and is at the required minimum depth of 1.6mm.
  • Increase your following distance.
  • Reduce your speed.
  • Be on the lookout for unexpected potholes caused by the flood.
  • Be on guard against motorists swerving suddenly to avoid objects on the road.
  • Increase all precautions where traffic lights are out of order owing to the flood.

Take note: tyre damage due to slippery roads and potholes is a common occurrence and is not usually covered by a motor insurance policy unless another part of the car is damaged simultaneously.


Poor maintenance, whether of your property or your vehicles, is one of the most common reasons for the rejection of claims. It is a general condition that policyholders must take precautions to prevent or minimise loss or damage. Insurers are obliged to investigate the cause and will repudiate the claim if your risk management or maintenance was insufficient. Be aware that poor workmanship or defective design is also considered a significant factor in damage assessment. For your property assets, it is, therefore, vital to ensure that any repairs or alteration plans are in accordance with municipal regulations.

Never assume that your policy covers you for all the perils that this season may bring – be winter-wise and check the terms and conditions of your policy with your insurer to guarantee that you are not under-covered during the upcoming cold and wet.

BellRyck – Lifetime Financial Solutions

The BellRyck Financial Group boasts a proud history spanning three decades. We offer short-term insurance, as well as long-term financial investment products and advisory services through our specialist network of service providers.

Our commitment to fostering lasting relationships built on trust and personal service has allowed us to create valuable partnerships with both individuals and businesses. Prescribing to the highest standards of ethics and integrity, we have developed the acumen and flexibility to successfully evolve with the changing financial needs of our clients.

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