Private insurers to take lead on Kaikoura quake claims

New process will speed up settlements.

Insurers and the Earthquake Commission have cut a deal where the private companies will take the lead in dealing with claims from the Kaikoura earthquake, acting as agents for the state-owned disaster insurer in an effort to make the process simpler and easier to manage.

EQC has signed a memorandum of understanding with AA Insurance, Farmers Mutual Group, IAG, Medical Insurance Society, QBE Insurance, Tower, Vero, and Youi, where the private insurers, who are all members of the Insurance Council, will act as agents for the Crown agency.

That means they will assess and settle contents and house claims from the Kaikoura event on its behalf. The deal covers claims already lodged with EQC, which will be passed on to their insurer.

"This approach draws on the experience we have gained from settling hundreds of thousands of claims following the Canterbury, Eketahuna, Cook Strait and February 2016 earthquakes," EQC chief executive Ian Simpson says.

"The new approach will be more efficient and will mean we can make the best use of the country's loss adjusting expertise to deliver a better result for customers."

Last year Vero, a unit of Australia's Suncorp Group, pushed for an overhaul of the dual claims management, which it blamed for unnecessary delays to claims made for the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury quakes. The dual process meant customers had to deal with EQC for the first $100,000 of personal property, and a private insurer for anything over the Crown entity's cap.

Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton says the new process will speed up settlements, while Vero executive general manager of claims Jimmy Higgins says the streamlined approach is one of the lessons from the Canterbury quakes.

All land claims and claims relating to properties before the Kaikoura quake are out of the scope of the deal, and insurers will identify vulnerable customers under the Human Rights Commission's guidelines.

Insurers will be paid for their handling expenses by EQC, and the state agency will audit claims intermittently to ensure they meet legislative requirements.

(BusinessDesk)