As a result of the Lindt café hostage siege in Sydney that ended in tragic circumstances, the Federal Government has now determined the actions of the gunman was a terrorist act.
This declaration was a key point for the insurance industry as the Terrorism Insurance Scheme that was created following the Terrorism Act 2003 can now fund claim settlements. The scheme is administered by the Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation and provides a pool of money to minimise the impacts that flowed from the withdrawal of terrorism insurance. This standard exclusion introduced to policies was necessitated by the anticipated huge costs, estimated at $20 billion, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on New York’s Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.
The Terrorism Insurance Scheme provides cover for commercial property and associated business interruption and public liability claims. It does not cover residential property or residential property contents; also excluded are myriad other types of insurance too extensive to list here.
The scheme is funded by a percentage of premium contributions paid into the reinsurance pool to ensure there are adequate funds to pay for large-scale loss that may affect property and subsequent loss of income. The scheme was established as an interim measure and is formally reviewed every three years in order to decide if there is a need to continue. The latest review in 2012 decided that in the context of levels of Australian and International terrorism at the time, the scheme would continue.
The risk assessment and relevant premium payable by commercial enterprises is determined by postcode with inner city properties attracting a different rate to regional properties. The applicable rate is calculated from the property section of the policy and is a percentage of the existing premium – rather than a loading.
The Sydney café siege, from an insurance perspective, resulted in loss of income to many businesses that had to be evacuated due to the safety risk.
The Insurers facilitate the claims and pay as if the Terrorism exclusion did not apply; they then send the applicable amount for reimbursement via the Terrorism funding pool.
It is important to point out that claims are settled by insurers in accordance with the risks listed in your policy. The declaration of a Terrorism Act merely allows insurers to seek reimbursement from the pool.
Thankfully in the Lindt case, most surrounding business affected did not suffer any loss or damage to property but may have incurred loss of income and/or increased costs due to lost working time as a result of prevention of access to their place of business.
To be able to claim the business interruption financial loss, it is necessary for those businesses to have a policy that covers such financial losses. If you don’t have a policy then you are not able to receive any compensation.
Talk to your broker and make sure you have adequate coverage should you be faced with a similar claim.