Businesses don’t know they may be able to claim COVID losses

Businesses hoping to make a claim for losses suffered as a result of COVID-19 restrictions should check their insurance policy and seek further advice, even if they’re being told by their insurer that they’re not eligible.

Slater and Gordon Senior Associate James Hunter said business owners who suffered a loss as a result of COVID restrictions because their services were customer facing, may be eligible for a business interruption insurance payout.

“A recent NSW court ruling has created uncertainty for many businesses hoping to make a claim but some businesses may be eligible for business interruption insurance payouts,” Mr Hunter said.

“Restaurants, bars, gyms, dance studios and businesses offering public facing services who lost money as a result of COVID-19 may be able to go ahead with a business interruption insurance claim. Businesses that can now potentially make claims include some that were previously denied claims for losses based on the NSW ruling.”

Mr Hunter said it was worth business owners checking their insurance policy and seeking advice, as many still did not they may now be able to claim.

“COVID-19 has disrupted all of our lives this year, and none more so than those businesses that rely on customers. We strongly urge people to check their insurance policy and to seek advice if they think they may be eligible or even if they’re being told by their insurer that they’re not,” Mr Hunter said.

“If businesses are unsure about the exemption detail or timeframe that applies within their policy, it’s best to seek legal advice.

“Even though the current ruling will likely be appealed and continue to playout in the court system – potentially for years – businesses are currently able to challenge exclusions individually.”

Background:

  • The NSW Supreme Court of Appeal recently ruled business interruption policies with pandemic exclusions were invalid, meaning some business owners with certain policies who lost business due to COVID should be paid.
  • The court ruled that insurance policy clauses excluding damage from viruses declared to be quarantinable under the Quarantine Act were invalid. This is because the law was repealed in 2015 and replaced with the Biosecurity Act.
  • Some insurers had mistakenly referenced the outdated Act and had knocked back claims on this basis.
  • The ruling only applies to the Quarantine Act, which means the barrier to making a claim for some businesses may have been removed (the test case ruling is only relevant to policies that reference an outdated Act of Parliament, the Quarantine Act).
  • Policy holders with policies referencing the Biosecurity Act are not eligible to claim under their business interruption policies for COVID-19-related claims.

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