When a natural disaster strikes, it can leave many people homeless. So, how to ensure the safety of your important documents?
Home insurance – also known as householder’s insurance – is the best way to protect your house and its contents from natural disasters and other perils. However, for making an insurance claim, the availability of the insurance policy – which is a contract between the insurer and the insured – is a must. Otherwise, how would you be able to make a claim?
An insurance policy, in fact, is a document detailing the terms and conditions of a contract of insurance, and determines the claims which the insurer is legally required to pay. No need to say that in its absence, sometimes it may become difficult to make a claim. Yes, a duplicate policy can be issued by the insurer, but it may take some time and because of this reason alone, the compensation can get delayed.
The problem, however, is that when a natural disaster like a flood or an earthquake strikes, it can leave many people homeless as their homes may get washed away or may get destroyed – as it happened during the Gujarat earthquake or the Kerala floods, among others. In such situations, how can the safety of insurance policies – along with other important documents like the papers of your home, investment documents or Will etc – be ensured?
Industry experts say that storing important documents only in physical form is unsafe and cumbersome. Such documents are always at the risk of physical damage. Also, they can be stolen or may get destroyed in case of an earthquake, flood, fire etc.
The best way to ensure, therefore, that all important documents remain safe and can be assessed under all circumstances is to have them uploaded on the cloud-based storage platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and so on. These web-based storage services provide you access to your important documents whenever and wherever you want them.
Another way to keep your documents safe is by storing them on DigiLocker. “DigiLocker is not only safe, but also an ideal solution under such circumstances. DigiLocker is a cloud storage service that takes another step towards the government’s dream of having a Digital India. The documents available on this cloud-based platform is considered valid and true. This mobile app is linked with an individual’s Aadhaar. These documents are e-signed, i.e. self-attested or digitally signed. This benefit is a major plus point against having documents on other cloud storage platforms,” says Devendra Rane, Founder & CTO, Coverfox.com.
Electronic Insurance Account (eIA) with any of the IRDAI-approved insurance repositories in India is also a good option. According to insurers, Electronic Insurance Account is a facility that allows you to hold insurance policies in the dematerialized form and helps you to manage all your insurance policies through a single online window, free of cost.
“The biggest advantage of having an Electronic Insurance Account (eIA) is the fact that it empowers policyholders to access the details of all the insurance policies at one place, enabling ease in tracking of policies and storage of all insurance policies in a dematerialized form without the fear of losing or having a damaged physical document, in case of a natural catastrophe or fire incidents,” says Bisheshwari Singh, Chief Marketing Officer, Universal Sompo General Insurance.
Holding dematerialized documents with repositories is a safe option, since they have a robust infrastructure and are credible organizations. The process of having an electronic policy is very convenient; you just need to provide your eIA number in the proposal form and the policy will reflect in your account after it is issued.
“It is, however, important to note that a policyholder can only open one account. Also, details like change of address or nomination can be updated easily through eIA, making the whole process more reliable and faster for the policy holder. You can also use cloud/online data storage platforms to store scanned copies of your driver’s license, health insurance cards, property records, contact list, passport and birth certificate so that you could access them remotely if you cannot get home or documents have been destroyed or damaged in calamities,” says Singh.
How to claim insurance in case your documents get destroyed in a disaster?
In order to get the insurance claim benefits, the insured must immediately contact the insurer regarding the policy he holds and make a claim on the same. It is true that making a claim without the required documents is very difficult.
“The first thing to do would be to contact the insurer at the earliest through any of the established channels of communication and inform about the loss and give details of the policy that you hold with them. The insurer will then inform about the next step to be taken by the insured and will arrange for a surveyor who will determine the extent of your loss. The surveyor may rely either on other documentary evidence of existence or ownership like the sale deed in case of property or on physical evidence at the scene to access the loss,” says Rane.
Moreover, there can be claims under a house insurance policy where the entire house is washed away. The vehicle could also have been washed away. This motor claim will be categorised under ‘complete loss’ and the full sum insured would become claimable. The surveyor will consider all the options available and inform the insured about the same. It might also be possible that the insurer may waive off the required documents or give some relief to the claimant on humanitarian grounds.
Industry experts say that in cases where a natural catastrophic event has taken place, insurance companies are well versed with the hardships of their customers and work towards easing and expediting the claim settlement process, once the on-ground situation returns to normalcy. Claims against property, motor, home, health and personal accident are the major chunk in such situations. Also, getting the claim registered and settlement procedure become difficult as the policy document won’t be available in most of the cases.
In such cases customer advisories are circulated using different communication platforms to educate customers about claim intimation and registering the claim. “After intimation of a claim, insurance companies will start surveying the damages incurred to the asset. Thus, insurance companies simplify the process/procedure, including giving relaxations in the usual requirements wherever feasible, which will be considered to expedite the claim settlement process. Hence, insurers are liberal and proactive in such events. In case the policy documents are required, once can apply with the insurance company. Usually your insurer will charge a nominal fee to issue a duplicate copy of the policy,” says Singh.