Impacted by the NSW floods? Here’s what you need to know about your car insurance

Cars driving near flood waters in historic NSW weather.

On Monday, the flood conditions in New South Wales were declared an insurance catastrophe by the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA). 

This recognises the severity of the recent weather – which in some areas is the worst flooding in a 100 years – and means insurance claims related to these events will be prioritised and policyholders provided with emergency assistance.

Much of ICA’s advice relates to property damage and home insurance, but if you’re also concerned about your car during this wild weather, here’s some advice you can turn to when it comes to car insurance claims and other support.

Can I claim on car insurance for flood and storm damage?

Yes, it’s likely your comprehensive car insurance policy will give you some level of cover for storm and flood damage. This is usually listed under the broad coverage point of ‘accidental damage’, which generally also covers damage caused by things like hail storms, fire and collisions.

As with most aspects of insurance, there are likely to be slightly different conditions and classifications around this depending on your insurance provider. For example, a flood may be defined differently between providers, and you may not be covered in certain circumstances like driving in flood water, as this may be seen as reckless driving.

It would be wise to check how you’re covered for windscreen damage and replacement as well. Comprehensive cover will generally include windscreen damage, but you may be required to pay an excess which could potentially cost more than repairs.

To make this more cost-effective, many insurance companies offer reduced window glass excess, which might come as an optional extra or as standard. If it is offered as an optional extra it will up come with a premium increase, but could be worth it when the repair bill arrives. 

Each policy will have different details around whether this includes replacements as well as repairs and the reduced excess level, so be sure to read your product disclosure statement (PDS) carefully.

How to make a car insurance claim during an emergency

To lodge an insurance claim, you’ll need to contact your insurance company directly. This might be online, via a claims app or over the phone – check your insurance company’s website to see which option is preferable. 

Insurance claims can be processed more efficiently with the more information you provide. So, depending on the circumstances of your claim (such as storm damage to your parked car, compared to damage after a collision), see if you can supply the following information with your car insurance claim:

  • Your insurance info and best contact details during the emergency.
  • Details and photos of the damages.
  • Contact information, insurance details and car registration of other drivers involved in the incident.
  • Contact details of any witnesses of the event.
  • Details of how the incident occurred, the road conditions and any other influential factors.
  • A police report, if relevant.

If you are unsure of your insurance details or have general inquiries about the events and claims process in NSW right now, you can also call ICA's disaster hotline on 1800 734 621. Remember: this is not a claims lodgement service, just a help line. 

What to do if your car is caught in a flood

Avoid driving in storm and flood conditions whenever possible, particularly if you know you’re in a flood-prone area. If you do find yourself stuck in rising flood waters, there are a few actions you can take.

The State Emergency Services (SES) recommends you never try to drive or walk through flood waters. They list this as the major cause of injuries and fatalities during floods, as hidden debris and uneven ground under fast-moving flood water can easily see people and vehicles knocked over and swept away.

While every car’s wading depth can differ, water as shallow as 15cm can cause damage, impacting gear casings, electrical systems and even the engine, and can cause you to lose control of the vehicle. If flood waters rise around you, the SES recommends you get out of the car and move to higher ground. 

If you can’t reach shelter, call the relevant SES phone number. The NSW SES emergency help line is 132 500. In life threatening conditions, call 000.

Support for flood-affected areas in NSW

The government and banks are both offering assistance to NSW residents affected by the floods. 

The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment offers a one-off payment of $1,000 per-adult and $400 per-child for people living in 34 local government areas in NSW. This can be accessed if the floods have affected your home, health or a significant asset (over $20,000) like a car.

Major banks have also announced emergency support packages, offering things like deferred home loan repayments, waived fees and further help for customers and businesses impacted by the floods.

You can read the details of these support measures in Mozo’s guide to government and big banks’ NSW flood financial relief.