Are You Under Insured?

We’ve all been guilty of the ‘It’ll never happen to me’ syndrome, but the experience of Robin Bunyard of BV Commercials should be a cautionary tale to us all. He certainly didn’t expect an arson attack, but had it not been for a sequence of strokes of luck, the effects of the attack would have been dramatically worse and could even have sunk the business. It all began when one of his lads called on a Sunday morning to ask Robin if anybody had been into the office, because it was in a bit of a mess. Some CCTV equipment had fallen off the wall causing about £1000 of damage to the cameras and monitors and office furniture. You’d hardly call this a stroke of luck, especially as Robin’s claim on his insurance policy, resulted in a visit from a loss adjustor who had more bad news. When he inspected the offices, the loss adjuster felt that BV Commercials was seriously underinsured, which would affect the level of compensation. Robin commented that the furniture and equipment was not new so it wasn’t worth a lot. However, the loss adjuster pointed out that Robin’s policy was ‘New for Old’ and the cost of replacement with new equipment was considerably more than the sum insured on the policy. This meant that BV Commercials was very underinsured, and as a result Robin’s insurance claim was reduced significantly. “Like many people, I didn’t read the small print, so I didn’t realise that we needed to insure for the cost of replacing everything at today’s prices.” commented Robin. “Fortunately I took the loss adjuster’s advice, and immediately reassessed the whole business. When I totted up the cost of replacing all the equipment and furniture in the offices, workshops and yard, I was staggered. For example we have a king pin press which we bought a few years ago for about £1800. Second hand value is now only a few hundred pounds, but to replace it today would cost around £4000. I increased the insurance policy to cover the business based on current replacement values, and although it increased the insurance premium, at least I had peace of mind that I would be properly insured in future.” And that really was a stroke of luck because only a few weeks later, BV Commercials was the victim of an arson attack, when burning plastic bottles filled with inflammable liquid were thrown through extractor vents in the toilets. Although the vehicles and premises suffered considerable fire damage, nobody was hurt, but it could have been a lot worse had not Lady Luck played her hand once more. The toilets faced north, and the lads had complained that the wind blowing through the extractor vents meant the loos were freezing in winter. As the extractors weren’t actually used, Robin blocked off the vents on the inside to keep the place warmer. And that was the next stroke of luck, because the blocked vents meant that when the attack took place, the burning bottles bounced back and ended up against the outside wall. This reduced the damage that would have resulted had they ended up inside, but even so, the fire took hold of plastic pipework and started to spread. Above the toilets was a large water tank, which had been left behind by the previous occupants. The next stroke of luck was that the heat from the spreading fire melted the soldered joints on the pipework, which resulted in water cascading down and dampening down the fire. Thanks to Robin’s luck factors, the fire damage was less extensive than it would have been. Most of the devastation caused by the fire was from the burning plastics. PVC plastics are chloride polymers and when they burn they release hydrogen chloride gas. This dissolves in the water to become highly corrosive hydrochloric acid, which attacks any metal it comes into contact with. “I wasn’t aware that burning plastics could be so dangerous,” said Robin. “Even though only part of the building was damaged, the mess was considerable. As well as the smoke damage, everything metallic was attacked and went rusty including metal parts on the trucks, and it even attacked tools that were stored inside boxes. Everything had to be cleaned to get rid of the acid. It was a nightmare!” Robin’s luck continued. He added. “We had just bought a brand new vehicle from Recovery World but a slight glitch in the paperwork delayed collection by a couple of days. Had we picked it up the day originally planned, it would have also suffered acid damage along with the other trucks.” Following the fire, local recovery firms GRS of Leamington and Fillongley Garage both came to Robin’s rescue and loaned him recovery trucks so that he could keep going despite his own being out of action. Thanks to their help Robin was up and running again within 24 hours, but their generous action underlines the great camaraderie that exists amongst the people who work in the recovery industry. “I was very lucky, and it made me realise just how easy it is to get caught out unwittingly. How many people check the small print in their insurance policies? Had we not had the earlier claim we would have been so underinsured, it would have cost us a fortune.” “However much we try to reduce risks, accidents will happen though no fault of our own, so my advice to everybody who runs a business is to take time out to check documents thoroughly, get expert advice and make sure you are properly protected. I was fortunate, but luck played a big part. Others may not be so lucky so if my experiences can help them avoid a calamity, it may have been a blessing in disguise.”