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January 29, 2001
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Insurance firms flooded with claims after quake

The devastating earthquake which brought in its wake death and widespread destruction in Gujarat has thrown up another problem, that of settlement of the insurance claims.

With as many as 3,000 claims between Rs 10,000 and Rs 100 million being lodged till Saturday, and many more expected to come in, the four state-owned insurance companies are in a tizzy.

The heads of four outfits are meeting in Ahmedabad to work out how to expedite claim settlements. K N Bhandary, chairman in-charge of United Insurance Company will head the meeting attended by A P Pradhan (New India Assurance), B D Banerjee (Oriental Insurance) and B S Ramanujan (National Insurance). K Lakshmanan, the general secretary of General Insurers' Association (GIPSA), which is the co-ordinating body of these outfits, will also join the meeting.

The regional manager of Oriental Insurance, M K Jindal said in Ahmedabad that top on priority was to ''guide the executives on how to expedite settlement of earthquake claims.''

To achieve this the management intends to undertake claims' settlement without resorting to bureaucratic wrangles or documentation, he explained.

With economic losses amounting to Rs 50 billion, the insurance companies are expecting claims around Rs 10 billion.

Besides the claims for damages to households and buildings as well as belongings, the companies expect lot of claims due to death and injury.

Considering the large number of casualty, it may not be feasible to undergo the usual formality of obtaining a post-mortem, Jindal said. ''As such, a death certificate obtained from any doctor confirming death by accident due to collapse of building would suffice," he apprised.

The need of the hour is to work fast, especially where households are involved, and to be more sympathetic to their loss, leading surveyor Saumil Mehta of Mehta and Padamsey Pvt Ltd observed.

He added that unfortunately, at the time of Gujarat cyclone, there were a huge number of uninsured losses in comparison to insured claims.

Jindal said that the insurance companies do not have any relief fund. The settlement of claims take place through existing funds. ''We settle the claims falling within the scope of the insurance policies issued by us. But we have to expedite the process,'' he stressed.

Till then it is the common man who is worst affected as the large-scale devastation on the fateful day left more than 100 high rise buildings crumbling to ground.



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