Businesses - and householders - are this morning counting the cost of the damage done by Storm Ophelia. It will take some time for a price to be put on that however early estimates put the cost in the €500-800m range - with the disruption caused by the storm also likely to have cost hundreds of millions of euro. That means many will soon be contacting their insurers to try to recoup the cost of what they've incurred.

"Business insurance policies will cover for storm damage to premises and stock, they will also cover for business interruption if it has been triggered by storm damage," Insurance Ireland's chief executive Kevin Thompson said. "In relation to household insurance, household buildings and contents insurance policies will cover damage caused by storms and insurers will usually pay for costs of alternative accommodation if your home has become uninhabitable as a result of the storm."

The length of time that insurers will cover alternative accommodation - and business interruption - will depend on the individual policy, however, and people are encouraged to check their documentation to see what applies in their own case. Individuals and businesses are also encouraged to hold onto receipts relating to any temporary repairs they may have conducted in the coming days - as many insurers will also cover these costs as part of a claim. 

Mr Thompson recommended that people contact their insurer or broker as a first step - and then see what needs to be done in order to make their claim. "What they will do is assess the actual coverage of your policy, they will also clarify the excess or deductables relating to your policy," he said. "What they will do then is send out the necessary claim form, they will also put people on the ground in relation to businesses where they get loss assessors to work with the employer to assess the level of damage.

Insurers will naturally be looking to minimise their costs in the claims process, though Mr Thompson said they should not expect it to be adversarial as a result, as insurers are bound by Central Bank rules to handle claims fairly. However he said that people should expect the process to take time, especially given the volume of claims each insurer is likely to have to handle. "The important thing to understand is that this will take time, but insurers will work with people as quickly as they can to process their claims," he said, though he noted that people will not be stopped from taking temporary measures or repairs to get their businesses back on track.

While the immediate concern is dealing with the current damage, many will also now worry about what yesterday's storm means for them when it comes time to renew their insurance policy. Mr Thompson said it is too early to know if this event will impact the cost of premia - but he rejects the notion that insurers have 'black spots' that they will not give coverage to at all. "We won't know for a couple of weeks yet in terms of what the actual insured losses will be, until the claims start coming through," he said. "The industry has a good track record in being able to pay claims and sustain such losses. 

"What insurers will do is take in many risk criteria when reassessing or renewing policies - what we do know is that this is a one in 50 year event, equally we know that these events are becoming more frequent and becoming more severe by nature - but it doesn't necessarily go that consumers will not be covered at the point of renewal," the CEO added.

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