Document everything, insurance lawyer urges Albertans returning to flooded homes

Document everything, insurance lawyer urges Albertans returning to flooded homes

‘Take lots of photos, don’t take a denial at face value, make notes’

The excerpted article was written by CBC News 

As Northern Alberta residents discover the extent of flooding damage to their homes and businesses, a Fort McMurray lawyer offers a few practical tips that could pay off later in dealings with insurance companies.

Take photos. Make lists. Understand your policy. And don’t give up if your claim is initially denied.

“They’ve just been back to the property for the last day or two and the news is pretty heartbreaking,” said Christine Burton, a Fort McMurray lawyer who has worked through insurance issues with numerous residents in recent years.

“People are dealing with the shock and impact of cleaning up,” Burton told CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM on Tuesday. “We’re telling people, ‘Please, take lots of photos, don’t take a denial at face value, make notes. Stay safe.'”

More than 14,000 people were evacuated as a result of recent river flooding in and around Fort McMurray, as well as along the Peace River.

As people progress from clean-up to rebuild, it is critical that they understand their insurance policies, even if it means hiring a lawyer to work through “subtle” policy language, said Burton.

Most policies won’t include coverage for overland flooding, when water flows over dry land before entering a property through doors or windows.

“It’s often a special endorsement you can buy. It’s very often expensive,” Burton said. The cost depends on the flood risk in the area where you live.

However, property owners whose policy includes a special endorsement for sewer backup may be able to get some money from their insurance companies.

“Take photos of your basements, the drains, the sump pump. Make notes of everything that’s happening, make lists of everything that you’ve lost.

“Fort McMurray has become a little bit of an expert, unfortunately, at insurance claims through fire —  and we’re still dealing with some of those claims,” Burton said. “Don’t take a denial at face value. You can challenge this. Understand your policy.”

Don Scott, mayor of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, has said he expects residential damages from the flooding in Fort McMurray could top $100 million.

In a statement, the Insurance Bureau of Canada said overland and sewer backup coverage are the key parts of a policy that pertain to flooding events but both of these are optional and must be added to home insurance policies.

Properties in high-flood areas may not be offered the coverage, the statement said.

“If a home has flood damage from this event but did not purchase the optional overland flood insurance or it was not available as the area is high-risk for flood, the policy would not cover the damages,” Celyeste Power, vice-president for the insurance bureau’s western region, said in the statement.

Property owners not covered by insurance may be able to access provincial disaster relief funding. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has said the provincial disaster relief program will likely be triggered for Wood Buffalo flooding.

Under that program, the government would provide some financial support for recovery costs for critical public infrastructure and non-insured private infrastructure.

Between 2009 and 2019, insurers paid out an average $1.9 billion per year on catastrophic flooding claims, compared with an average $422 million annually in the period from 1983 until 2008, according to Insurance Bureau data.

More than $2 billion in insured losses resulted from the June 2013 flooding event in southern Alberta, which caused $6 billion in damages and displaced 100,000 people.

CBC News

Canada: Alberta Limitations Under The Insurance Act

On April 2, 2020, Field Law reported that the limitations periods in various statutes had been suspended due to the impact of COVID-19. We noted that certain statutes were not included in the suspension order including the Insurance Act. Field Law wishes to clarify that, pursuant to the Public Health Act, the only statutes that could be included in Ministerial Order 27/2020 are those under the authority of the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. The Insurance Act was not included in the Ministerial Order as that legislation falls outside the Justice portfolio. At present, limitations under the Insurance Act continue to run and no suspension of the limitations under that Act has been ordered as of yet.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Field Law:

Drivers fear move by company will force them back to work to cover expenses despite health risks

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13,000 people forced from homes in Fort McMurray, Fort Vermilion

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B.C. securities panel orders companies, founders to pay $37 million in fines

VANCOUVER _ A group of companies and its founders have been fined nearly $37 million by a B.C. Securities Commission panel that says they misled investors, conducted unregistered trading and illegally sold securities.

The panel says it ordered FS Financial Strategies and six other companies in B.C., Alberta and Ontario to pay $32.8 million for  “making misrepresentations to hundreds of investors” as well as illegally selling securities and unregistered trading.

It also ordered company founders Aik Guan (Frankie) Lim and Scott Thomas Low to pay $2 million each, and permanently banned them from B.C.’s investment markets.

The former general manager of the companies, Darrell Wayne Wiebe, has been ordered to pay $75,000 and is banned from B.C.’s investment markets for a decade.

The securities commission says in a news release that Lim, Low and the FS Group admitted to raising over $47 million from 389 investors without disclosing that the company wasn’t profitable and was covering its shortfalls by raising more money from investors.

The panel says in its decision that it’s unlikely the FS Group can repay investors, and after the commission issued a temporary order in 2017 against the companies, the Insurance Council of British Columbia suspended or terminated licences to sell insurance for the founders and the companies.

The commission also says Lim and Low sold $29 million in securities in violation of a 2014 legal commitment to the securities commission not to trade or distribute securities until one of its companies had filed the proper documents and refunded investor loans.

“The seriousness of the misconduct was magnified by the significant amount of money and large number of investors involved, and the duration of the misconduct,” the panel says in its ruling.

The commission’s news release says Lim, Low and the FS Group admitted to the misconduct in an agreed statement of facts filed last year. In a separate agreement, it says Wiebe admitted to going along with the conduct.

The agreements led to a hearing in February to determine the sanctions.

Canada’s oil giant cuts capital spending by 26%

By Bloomberg

Canada’s largest oil and gas company said it would cut its capital program this year by 26% as it tries to outlast the plunge in crude prices.

Suncor Inc. will lower its capital program by C$1.5 billion ($1 billion) this year to between C$3.9 billion and C$4.5 billion, the company said in a statement. It will also reduce operating expenditures by C$1 billion from C$11.2 billion in 2019, and is adjusting refinery utilization because of the drop in fuel demand. The company is also delaying its target of C$2 billion of incremental free funds flow by two years to 2025.

Suncor’s cuts follow $4.4 billion in reductions already announced by other companies in the nation. Canada has been particularly hard hit by the oil crash, as pipeline constraints force steep price discounts even beyond the drop in global benchmark prices. Workers in the remote oil-sands region in Alberta are also bracing for potential outbreaks of the coronavirus.

“The simultaneous supply and demand shocks are having a significant impact on the global oil industry,” Mark Little, Suncor’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. “We are adjusting our spending and operational plans to be prepared in the event the current business environment persists for an extended period of time.”

The company’s full-year production outlook is 740,000 to 780,000 barrels a day, compared with about 743,000 in the first quarter. That includes an increase in bitumen output offset by lower production expected from Fort Hills, where the partners are reducing it to a one-train operation to increase cash flow, according to the statement.

The Syncrude annual coker turnaround is being deferred from the second quarter to the third, while MacKay River’s return to operations has been intentionally extended to May because of the virus and low prices. The company is also seeking options for its project to extend the life of the Terra Nova floating production vessel as Spain is no longer able to accommodate a dry dock slot.

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