If you are homeowner whose home was affected by the Canterbury Earthquakes and still have an outstanding insurance claim, you are not alone.
Even though it has been eight years since the Canterbury Earthquakes struck Christchurch, over 2,000 homeowners still find themselves without a clear path to resolving their earthquake-related insurance claims, with their homes yet to be repaired or rebuilt and no suitable cash settlement offer in sight.
In recognition of the great hardship this has imposed on those homeowners, Parliament recently passed the Canterbury Earthquake Insurance Tribunal Act 2019. This legislation went into effect on 10 June 2019 and created the Canterbury Earthquakes Insurance Tribunal (“the Tribunal”), which provides an alternative pathway to resolving outstanding earthquake-related insurance claims.
The Act’s stated purpose is to provide homeowners with a fair, speedy, flexible and cost-effective way to resolve their earthquake-related insurance claims. To this end, the Tribunal will take an active and inquisitorial role in attempting to resolve homeowners’ claims, as it will have the power to:
i. Take an active approach in case-management, for example, by holding case management conferences, setting discovery deadline and holding joint expert conferences;
ii. Direct parties to mediation, which will be fully funded by the Tribunal;
iii. Appoint and cover the costs of independent expert advisors to assist the Tribunal with technical aspects of the issues in dispute; and
iv. Award costs to a party if, for example, another party’s conduct causes an unreasonable delay in the Tribunal’s proceedings.
If you are a homeowner with an unresolved earthquake-related insurance claim, or a previously resolved claim that has been re-opened, pursuing your claim through the Tribunal may be an option worth considering.
This is true even if you have already initiated proceedings in the District Court or High Court. The Act provides a method for transferring your proceedings to the Tribunal, and recently the High Court transferred a case over the defendant-insurer’s objection, holding in relevant part that the Tribunal has the ability to determine complex questions of law, as well as affirming the Tribunal’s purpose of providing a speedy, fair and cost-effective resolution to earthquake-related insurance claims.
If you would like to discuss applying to the Tribunal, transferring your existing claim to it, or need any other advice about resolving your earthquake-related insurance claims, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our team.