Wind damage

A friend has had a tree blown down at her house last weekend and very wisely contacted the insurance company very quickly. Their response was surprising.

The wind is recorded as reaching 67km in Bergerac at the time. We have checked the Beaufort scale and that was a gale (coup de vent) in the range of 61.8–74.6 km/h, but they say that claims can only be made if a wind is above 100 km/h, so starting with a storm (tempête) 61.8–74.6 km/h, violent storm (violente tempête) 102.4–117.4 km/h or hurricane (ouragan) ≥117.4 km/h.

Beaufort also explains levels of damage risk, but nonetheless for an insurance company to do as they did, which was to say that there was no wind of more than 100 km/h recorded in Bergerac then without further investigation or whatsoever amazes me.

Has anybody had similar experiences?

a tree fell on our car this winter - a very unusual (for us) east wind... it was parked on the property of our employer. So it was a third party claim. We took pictures, spoke to the agents (generali) and they suggested local garage. It's a golf, so we said No, we wanted it to be repaired by a VW garage. they agreed and we left it there for their 'expert' to see the damage and agree with the garage the repairs.

all good, all easy, the bill was about 5000 - but we just signed various documents and it was done ( i think they even repaired some scratches that were there before the tree!

Our friend has asked several people for advice and most of us are reaching one conclusion: she cannot claim for her damage successfully.

Talking to our insurance agent friend last night, he said that the onus is on people to take out the right policy. The majority of people do not take out the most expensive ones, probably quite rightly since they would cover even volcanoes, major earthquakes, tsunamis and other things that used to have the legal name 'Act of God' in Anglo-Saxon policies that were also exempt (cas de force majeure). He said that top of range would include damage by the sonic boom from a Mirage flying over, which is fairly common hereabouts. If people make claims, he only needs their name to see the code for their policy in seconds so that with nearly 20 years experience in the insurance world he knows their cover. He also says he rarely has claims through that the company his business represents that pay out unless there has been a major storm that has caused extensive damage, in which case they take a general regional report from local meteorological stations or where there have been localised events that are covered by a report from emergency services, communes or can be substantiated by weather reports.

All very exciting stuff during an apéro but then I think the woman with the damage had already had most of that fed back to and even confirmed before we saw her yesterday.

The finer detail of a policy can be very complex with the what is and what isn’t covered. I’ve read ours over and over and still have to refer to it often to clarify things. In the case that any claim is initially refused I would always recommend doing some research using your policy booklet and then challenging your company. Don’t assume that the person who told you that you can’t claim gave you an accurate response. It could be their interpretation of a clause. We’ve challenged our claims department and on a few occasions we’ve had the initial knee jerk reaction of a no turned into a yes when we’ve helped them think ‘outside the box’.
For the 100kmph rule, I’m going to do some research when I’m back in the office tomorrow.

Perhaps a close reading of the policy may reveal that the apprentice loss adjuster wilfully accidentally misinterpreted a clause regarding wind speed?

Anyway, we had a dead poplar fall on a barn a couple of years ago, and there was no quibble from our French insurer. Maybe that was to lull us into a false sense of security come something more serious (given we were relatively new customers)?

Roof damage, not tree. I agree, but then what do the insurers actually tell us?

If this simply a claim for damage to the tree, it seems a plausible argument that trees unable to withstand 100kph should have been preemptively felled for firewood.

However, if this is a claim for damage to a house caused by a tree falling upon it in a strong wind, then it's arguably an inherently unreasonable policy if it excludes winds 100kph.

We have seen her this afternoon. She checked with the météo station and in her part of Bergerac there were no gusts even approaching 80 km/h. So she is resigned to no payout. It is an interesting point to know.

So, guess what the exciting conversation will be this evening at the apéro we will be at, which our insurance agent will also be at?

'Little pig, little pig, let me come in.'

'No, no, by the hair of my chiny chin chin.'

'Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your insurance company down.'

We use Cluny Mutuelle which is local to us, so they know the local weather conditions.

Gusts over 100 Kph count, those were what did for my pool cover, there certainly wasn't constant sustained 100 Kph+ wind, just gusts which went up to about 115 I think. The attestation I got from Bergerac gave the basic wind speed plus the gusts speed on the day the damage occurred.

In which case it is insidious that they don't have exact details in policies. There is also the catch, which is that there is a different between the constant Beaufort measurement and gusts. It would be unusual to have gusts over 100 km/h on a 67km wind, but no impossible. Gusts over could come with any strong gale (74.6–88.1 km/h) of over 80 km/h or just about all storms (proper speeds 88.1–102.4 km/h, not what I put at the top). However, all a meteorologist can measure is the constants at their station and then add gusts there, which are localised, as almost a possibility.

I had no idea about any of this. I just assumed that what is in an insurance policy is what we get, but it appears we have to not just read even the small print but to read into that such details, thus a process like osmosis happens whilst reading, so that we know it is pointless to make most claims.

Mind you, I do not agree with Simon below. Health insurance has saved me a moderate fortune. House insurance has enabled us to replace electrical goods like a washing machine that gave up the ghost at the time of one of EDF's strings of on/off and other similar things. Also, as I know from somebody else, an accident in a house that is not insured can make health insurance void. A person not far from us closed an inside door that pulled out of the wall with the frame, fell on her injuring her back and making her fall against a chair, thus breaking her leg. The fact the house was not insured was used by the company to say that had it been the bad state of the wall caused by local excavations for housebuilding loosening old masonry that needed repair that caused her accident. I believe she only received a small part of what she should have had normally. So Simon, knowing such things are not absolutely unusual, life without insurance can be expensive.

As far as I know it has to be over 100 Kph, it isn't pro rata. The météo gives the wind speed at the airport & then they extrapolate, eg chez moi it is generally windier... but it has to be 100 Kph certified by the météo.

NEVER TRUST AN INSURANCE COMPANY, they will fleece you for the payments and when you claim they will all ways renig on paying out, the only insurance I have ever had is car insurance as it is compulsory.

When we had damage last year, the insurance company asked for a letter from the mairie. They had one prepared after the quite local storm for anyone affected. No further questions asked.

We got the Bergerac wind speeds, she is in the city centre more or less, where I would guess she is more sheltered. The météo station gives city centre details, so the question is whether only winds over 100 km/h are paid out on, whereas my understanding is that any damage caused by force of nature, including wind, should be at least part covered.

They get the wind speeds from the météo station in Bergerac (at the airport). A couple of years ago I had several panes of my pool cover (a bit like a giant greenhouse) blown out & shattered, so I rang my insurance company to ask what to do & they said that if there were gusts over 100kph then I would be reimbursed 100% for damage - so I got an attestation from the météo, sent it off to the insurance company along with the pool cover repair devis & they paid for it all.

Absolutely, Brian. If it turns out to be "the norm", the more people are aware, the better. I'm waiting to see if other members have come across this.

That is the point Val. In her policy, which she read out the appropriate part from over the phone, there is no mention of what the specific forces of nature are. So, wind damage is wind damage. It looks like they made up the 100 km/h on the hop, but there may be something that is normal in insurance that is unwritten but industry wide. So, just to make a big hole in our working day with les vacances facing us in days, we have tried to find out. I cannot find specifics. What it needs is probably other people's experience. It is hard enough to get the companies to pay out as it is, but on a need to know basis for everybody, I would like to get behind this and know one way or the other. It would also help a friend out, of course.

I didn't know that, Brian, so thank you - I really must read small print on documents. I would have put in a claim too, not knowing get have a "get out" clause for wind speed. I mean, surely wind damage is damage from wind, regardless of its speed - the result is the same. So if gusts are recorded at, say, 95kmh and there's damage to the roof, you're not covered. Shame on them.