Stuart Stock, insurance law specialist at White, Fox & Jones, says time is running out for Wellington building owners with unresolved Kaikōura earthquake insurance claims as the statute of limitations for six years will expire on November 14.
Commercial property owners must act quickly to protect their rights if they are to hope to recover insurance payments for damage caused by the Kaikōura earthquake, according to an insurance law specialist.
Stuart Stock, of law firm White, Fox & Jones, said the Limitation Act provided a six-year window for most civil claims, including against insurers, to go to court.
November 14 marks six years since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake caused massive damage to buildings across central New Zealand.
In Wellington alone, the earthquake caused insured losses estimated at $1.5 billion, mostly commercial buildings, but many of Wellington’s claims have not been resolved or even pursued, Stock said.
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After Nov. 14, a building owner could lose the ability to enforce their claim for earthquake damage, a potential loss of millions of dollars, he said.
“It’s not just theoretical either, insurers can and do use this defence. We are currently dealing with claims against two separate insurers who are both using the Limitation Act as a defence.
Stock said many owners don’t understand that the limitation window applies even though they are trying to resolve the claim with their insurer without going to court, and even though insurers have indicated that they can accept the complaint.
“Claimants who are aware of the statute of limitations may fear that telling their insurer about it will jeopardize negotiations. But insurers are all well aware of the relevant dates.
It was possible to negotiate an extension to the period, but there were strict rules on how this had to be done and documented, Stock said.
Concretely, to be effective, any extension should be agreed and documented before November 14, 2022.
UNIVERSITY OF CANTERBURY/QUAKECore/STUFF
A simulation shows how the Kaikōura earthquake moved across the country before shaking offices in Wellington, including a call center in the Hutt Valley, captured by CCTV.
Stock said that before lawsuits can be brought, building owners would have to have insurance claims filed and expert reports prepared, a process that itself can take months.
After the Canterbury earthquakes, 1349 separate claims were made in Christhurch High Court against insurers (including EQC) for unpaid earthquake claims. Of these, 296 were filed in the four months preceding the expiration of the limitation periods.
Stock said that by comparison there had been only one claim brought by his firm in Wellington High Court against an insurer relating to damage caused by the Kaikōura earthquake.
“It is inconceivable that all damage resulting from the Kaikōura earthquake has been assessed and quantified, and that insurance claims are filed, accepted, settled and paid with this litigation alone.”
There was no one-size-fits-all solution when it came to insurance claims, so building owners should seek their own specialist legal advice even if, and especially if they were currently negotiating directly with their insurer, he said. -he declares.
“However, time is running out. Wellington building owners should act immediately to preserve any claims they may have against their insurer for damage caused by the Kaikōura earthquake.