The role of insurance in organisational recovery following the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes

Charlotte Brown, Erica Seville, John Vargo

April 2013, Resilient Organisations Research Report 2013/04

Executive Summary

Insurance is widely acknowledged as a key component in an organisation's disaster preparedness and resilience. But how effective is insurance in aiding business recovery following a major disaster? The aim of this research was to summarise the experiences of both the insurance industry and businesses dealing with commercial insurance claims following the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. This exploratory research is based on qualitative analysis of data from 12 expert interviews and literature review of over 50 documents. The interviews were with professionals involved in various aspects of the organisational insurance claims process in Christchurch; representing both insurer and claimant perspectives. Key recommendations for the insurance industry, organisations and for future research have been drawn from the analysis. These are summarised below. New Zealand has a relatively high insurance penetration rate but underinsurance was reported as an issue following the earthquakes. Businesses were also frustrated by the slow speed of claims settlement. There were a number of significant factors that complicated the claims process and contributed to the delays, including: the number of damaging earthquakes, the number of claims, the extent of damage, open-ended policy wording, resource constraints, regulatory changes and technical challenges. The major lessons for insurers are about ensuring that their policies are clearer with better defined terms and conditions in the future. In particular, there was confusion in policy interpretation regarding reinstatement of cover, the extent and applicability of replacement policies, the use of the term ‘as-new’, the general public’s understanding of insurance policies (due to complicated wording) and inconsistency in policy interpretation. All these issues contributed to delays in claims settlements, client frustration and significantly increased insurers’ liability.  The authors suggest that insurance policies could be better designed to meet the specific needs of some sectors. Particular sectors that have been identified as having unique insurance requirements include the tertiary education sector, tourism, manufacturing, central city business district-based.

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