Anyone who has lived in this city for more than a year is well aware of the yearly typhoon season which sees powerful storms that bring torrential rains, wind, and, in some cases, vast destruction. While Taiwan and Philippines usually bear the brunt of most typhoons, a few a year seem to gather speed as they come across the South China Sea towards the mainland and Hong Kong. When they threaten to hit Hong Kong, we see the all too familiar typhoon warnings spring up around the city, with kids and office workers alike crossing their fingers for the almighty T8 warning. While a T8 is great for those who want a bit of extra time off, Kwiksure does get a number of questions when a typhoon warning is sounded from motorists wondering whether their car insurance will still be valid during a typhoon.
In this article we take a look at how car insurance works during a typhoon and provide some tips to ensure consistent coverage.
Does my car insurance cover my car during a typhoon?
Yes! The vast majority of car insurance plans in Hong Kong cover vehicles during a typhoon. What we mean by this is that, should your vehicle be damaged while it is parked during a typhoon, the insurer will pay out on claims for repairs. But, as with everything in the insurance industry, there are a few situations here where coverage may not apply that you need to be aware of.
Situation 1 - parking your vehicle in risky areas during a typhoon
The most common situation that will cause insurers to deny claims revolves around where you park your vehicle during a typhoon. If for example, you decide to park your car down beside one of the piers, or in an area that is known to be affected by waves and flooding caused by a typhoon, then the insurer may not cover any claims.
In cases where this has happened before, the insurer has denied claims pointing to the terms and conditions of the driver's policy. These usually have a clause which states that parking the vehicle in an area that is known to be flood-prone or heavily affected by typhoons e.g., along the harbour, can result in claims being denied when they are caused by typhoon weather.
Of course, there are situations where this doesn't apply. For example, when the T10 hit a few years back, one of our clients had parked their car on the sub-ground floor of their apartment's parking garage, in their assigned spot. During the typhoon, the basement flooded submerging the car. In this case, and in all similar cases, the insurer paid out on the claim for damages because it is usually assumed that underground parking garages, especially those below the water table, are built to withstand flooding. In other words, you are not deemed to have taken a risk, there is no ground on which a claim can be denied).
Situation 2 - driving during a typhoon
In almost all cases, driving during a typhoon will not result in a lapse of your car insurance coverage. However, there are certain situations in which driving during a typhoon can lead to your insurance coverage lapsing.
One such example comes with road conditions and safety. All motor insurance policies require that you operate the vehicle in a way that does not expose you to excess risk or dangerous conditions. If for example, you are driving home and see that the road ahead of you is flooded, yet decide to continue driving through it and end up damaging your car, your insurer could dispute this claim. In this situation, it would be up to them to prove you knowingly put the vehicle in danger in order to reject the claim.
Situation 3 - Commercial vehicles and typhoons
Last year, after one of the T8s hit the city, the SCMP published an article about taxi drivers flat rating passengers and saying that during a typhoon their insurance lapses. To drivers, this means that they are justified in charging higher fares in order to cover the risk of driving without insurance. In Kwiksure's experience, the plans we sell to taxi drivers do not have a condition that states that coverage lapses during a typhoon.
That said, there are commercial vehicle motor insurance plans in Hong Kong that do state that coverage does not cover these vehicles during typhoons over a certain strength. If you have a commercial vehicle insurance plan, then it would be a good idea to read the terms and conditions to see if you are covered during a typhoon.
Protecting your car from a typhoon
Here are our top six things you should do to ensure your car is protected during a typhoon.
Don't park in flood and landslide-prone areas - This should go without saying, but we have seen cases where clients parked their vehicles close to a pier or flood-prone area during a typhoon, only to have their vehicles damaged. The same goes for parking in an area known to have seen landslides during typhoons in the past. When they submitted a claim, the insurer then refused to payout on the claim, stating that the owner put the vehicle in risk, which breached the plan's terms and conditions.
If you are going to park outside, ensure the vehicle is prepared - What we mean by this is take a few minutes to ensure that all of your windows and doors are properly closed. Also, don't forget to check the sunroof if you have one. Beyond that, having a super heavy-duty cover for your vehicle that can be easily secured could also help repel any water. Just be sure the cover is fastened securely with no areas exposed that can catch the wind.
Avoid parking below ground if possible - This is especially important if your apartment of office tower has a parking garage that is below the water table (e.g,. below the level of the harbour). While insurers will usually accept claims should the garage flood, this could be avoided by trying not to park on the lowest level of the garage.
If you must drive, drive safely - While it is advisable to avoid driving during a typhoon , this is obviously not always possible. So, if you do have to drive, it is advisable to take extra caution when out on the road. For example, if you see that a road is flooded, then try to take another route. If it is impossible, it is usually better to try and find a safe spot to park the vehicle instead of driving through.
Avoid commercial vehicles with lapsed insurance - If a taxi driver or other commercial vehicle driver tells you their insurance lapsees during a typhoon, it is best to try to find another driver. If this is true, and the driver gets into an accident, the extra money charged to "cover the risk" will in no way cover damages. If you are injured there could also be issues with receiving compensation, so it's best to just avoid the situation.
Read your plan's terms and conditions - This is an especially important thing to do before the first typhoon hits, after you've bought a new car or secured a new policy. While the majority of plans do cover typhoon damage, there could be specific wording in your plan that you will need to be aware of, especially if certain conditions will result in claims being denied.
If you have any questions regarding typhoons and your car insurance coverage, contact us today to learn more.