Consumer asks us if compensation offered by insurer for distress over claim is fair

Insurance Distress and inconvenience Up to £5,000

Rebecca and her mother, Jane, found out their home needed repairs and was unsafe to live in. But errors made by the insurer meant they were in the house for months without specialist equipment needed for Jane, and then moved many times. The situation caused Jane a lot of physical pain and both distress and upset.

What happened

Rebecca lives with her elderly mother Jane who suffers from mobility issues. Rebecca’s property was hit by a vehicle causing extensive damage to the house and making the property’s structural walls unstable and unsafe to live in. So, she called her insurer to make a claim.

Despite Rebecca telling the insurer about Jane’s vulnerabilities, it failed to identify the severity of the claim and didn’t deal with it promptly. This caused extreme worry to Rebecca for her and her mother’s safety, and she had to arrange for a third-party company to secure the walls herself.

The insurer also failed to take extra care when removing the contents from the property causing damage to items that had sentimental value to Rebecca. Some of these items were irreplaceable, including gifts with personal messages that had been given by her late husband which caused a lot of upset.

The insurer also failed to arrange alternative accommodation promptly which meant Rebecca and Jane had to live for more than six months in their home without furniture, as it was in storage, and proper kitchen facilities – though portable equipment was made available to them. They also both had to sleep on a mattress on the floor which caused great inconvenience to Rebecca, as she had to help Jane out of bed each day because of her mother’s mobility issues. During this period Jane particularly suffered from not having the home set up and equipment she needed for day to day living. This included her specialist bed and sleeping on a mattress caused her pain. The insurer then failed to source suitable accommodation for Rebecca and Jane, meaning they had to move more than once.

There were avoidable delays of around three months in the claims process, as during the repairs the insurer’s contractors caused further damage to the home. During this time, Rebecca had to chase to find out what was happening.

Rebecca complained that the insurer’s repeated errors during the claim had severely affected her. She had told the insurer she suffered from mental health problems, and the stress of looking after her mother while in unsuitable living arrangements and trying to sort the claim out caused her sleepless nights. This affected her mental health and caused her to have panic attacks. The insurer reviewed the claim and accepted it was responsible for a lot of the impact Rebecca and Jane had suffered – it agreed to make an offer of £3,500 to them.

What we said

We thought the impact of the insurer’s mistakes on Rebecca and Jane were substantial.

Both policyholders suffered a significant impact on their day to day lives. Rebecca had to put in a lot of time and effort to progress the claim and get the insurer to provide the right type of accommodation for their needs. Not sorting the alternative accommodation sooner meant there was a serious disruption to their lives and significant reduction in their living standards over a sustained period. The actions of the insurer also had a serious impact on Rebecca’s health – and we accepted that losing the sentimental items had caused her a lot of distress. The impact on Jane was also severe as she was left in discomfort for a sustained period due to the delays and handling of the claim.

We agreed the offer of £3,500 in compensation for the substantial distress and inconvenience caused was fair and reasonable.