WENDY KNOWLER | Run for cover! Insurers should pay for cars pummelled by coastal waves
Prospective purchasers of beachfront property — business or residential — are advised to ask the seller about previous claims for storm damage
Good news for the owners of the cars seen in the “wild waves” videos that went viral on social media at the weekend: their investment in insurance premiums will pay off, regardless of whether they were parked legally or not.
The SA Weather Service and National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) issued warnings last Friday of imminent heavy spring tide sea swells and gale force winds on the West Coast, moving eastward, warning anglers, hikers, sailors and bathers to keep away from the sea and the shoreline.
“Localised disruption to beachfront activities is likely,” the weather service said in its Yellow Level 2 warning. But many people either missed the warnings, underestimated the danger or simply couldn’t resist the chance to witness the ocean’s display of brute force, parking their cars in the path of the monster 7m to 9m waves.
Several videos showed cars being swept away in Gordon’s Bay.
“Even if cars were not parked in designated parking areas, the owners' claims would be successful because the waves came so far in that the specific parking spot was immaterial,” said Christelle Colman, CEO and founder of Ami Underwriting Managers.
King Price insurance spokesperson Sakina Ntuli said while comprehensive insurance for buildings, home contents and cars does cover policyholders for acts of nature such as storms, hail and heavy winds, living in an area that’s likely to be affected often by such weather events, would affect premiums.
If a property has repeatedly been damaged by high tide damage, for example, it could be deemed uninsurable for that specific risk, Colman says.
“That could affect your ability to sell your home, because a bank loan won’t be approved if that risk can’t be insured. So if you are sitting with a waterfront property, this might become a problem.”
Colman’s advice to prospective purchasers of beachfront property — business or residential — is to ask the seller about previous claims for storm damage.
The affected cars will no doubt be written off by their respective insurers — all the electronics, instruments and upholstery would need replacing and the body shell would rust early.
Should car buyers be worried about unwittingly buying one of these written off, then spruced up cars, as has happened in the past with cars which took a swim when Joburg roads turned to rivers in flash floods?
“No chance,” says forensic accident investigator Craig Proctor-Parker.
“Seawater damage is far worse than fresh water damage as the salt is highly corrosive.”
As for the quantum of the sea-ravaged car claims, a spokesperson for the country’s largest non-life insurer, Santam, said it was too early to tell.
“Only a handful of those claims had been submitted so far, and we can’t at this stage quantify these claims,” he said.
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