Floods

Townsville Floods Aplins Weir

Flood legal assistance – law student volunteer work experience program

Conrad Law has, in the past few years, been working on technology to make the delivery of certain legal services more cost-effective and accessible.  That technology works best where addressing similar issues for many people.

Following a meeting between Conrad Law and the James Cook University Technology and Law Departments last year,  we have been working on a work experience program for law students, who could use the technology developed by Conrad Law to provide volunteer legal services.

Conrad Law is a small firm and has limited resources and time to donate for free legal services. However, by using the technology we have developed and with the assistance of JCU law students, our available time and resources can be substantially leveraged.

When Townsville was severely affected by the February 2019 floods, we thought our program would be ideally placed to help out.  The program will provide guided self-help, and legal advice where required, for people affected by floods, for example, if they encounter difficulties in dealing with their insurance company, builder or landlord. The program provides fess assistance and is open to individuals and small business owners.

To launch the program, Conrad Law and the JCU Law School held a launch and information session at the JCU City Campus on 25th March 2019.   We hope the publicity generated by the launch, will inform potential users of the program of that opportunity.

Photograph of flood volunteer team

JCU law student volunteers with Ian and Tiffany of Conrad Law at the Flood Volunteer Launch

We are now inviting people affected by the flooding to register for assistance.

To register for assistance, click here

If you have already registered with us and we ask you to log in, please use this link:

For registered users

Have you been told you have no cover for flood?

Whilst all home insurance policies must now offer flood insurance, flood cover may not be included in many policies.  Flood cover may be provided as an optional extra.  The basic cover may not include flood insurance.  Most business and commercial property insurance policies do not include flood cover.  However, water damage may nevertheless be covered, if it results from leaks or overflowing gutters in a storm.

From 2012, the law has required insurers to apply a standard definition of “flood” to consumer insurance policies, including insurance for small businesses.  The definition might be summarised as: “the covering of normally dry land by water that has escaped or been released from the normal confines of … a lake, river, creek, other natural water course, reservoir, canal, or dam.” Inundation from stormwater systems and street gutters, would not usually fall within that definition of a flood.

Business insurance policies may provide a different definition of flood, provided the Insurer takes “reasonable steps” to ascertain that the business is not a “small business”, which is a business with a turnover of less than $1 million and fewer than five full-time equivalent employees.

Whether flood cover is included or not, water damage caused by roof or other leaks caused by a storm should be covered by standard building and contents insurance policies.  Damage caused by inundation from overflowing stormwater drains should also be covered.

It may not always be clear whether inundation is caused by a “flood”, or from overflowing stormwater drains.  Insurers will often rely on a hydrologist’s report, to determine the cause of the inundation.  However, the opinion of a hydrologist is not necessarily determinative, and a Court may on hearing evidence of those who witnessed the inundation, make a different finding.

Inundation of a property might be caused initially by overflowing stormwater drains.  Then later, the property may be affected by floodwaters that have breached the banks of a river or creek.  If it can be proved that the damage was first caused by overflowing stormwater drains, insurance cover may still be available – even if the property was later affected by river flooding.

As a result, it may be critical that good evidence of the original cause of inundation is obtained.  Any photos of the initial inundation will be very useful. First-hand testimony from witnesses about the onset of the inundation, may also be very useful.  It is important that statements from witnesses be obtained soon after the flooding event, whilst memories are fresh.

If you have been advised you are not covered for flood damage, we suggest that as a first step, it may be worth using the volunteer Flood Legal Assistance program to check whether you may in fact have some insurance cover or other rights available to you.

Warning:  Any legal information in this article is provided to inform the reader and is not to be taken as legal advice.  Information provided is general in nature and should not be acted on as if it were legal advice. Everyone’s circumstances are different.  There may be factors in your circumstances that make any options canvassed here, inappropriate for you.

 

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