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Open fires during Danish drought could invalidate liability insurance

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Open fires during Danish drought could invalidate liability insurance
Insurance companies have warned that they may not cover damage caused by open fires if they deem negligence to be at play. Photo by Gary Sandoz on Unsplash

Insurance companies in Denmark have warned the public that damage caused by open fires during a drought may not be covered by their policies.

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Denmark is currently in a spell of dry weather reported to be the worst drought experienced by the country for 20 years, with not a drop of rain having fallen in the country since May 23rd.

A wildfire index maintained by the Danish Emergency Management Agency (Beredskabsstyrelsen, DEMA) shows the risk of wildfire will be very high in large parts of the country this weekend due to the dry weather.

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The situation has now caused the interest organisation for insurance companies, F&P, to issue a warning to policy holders.

“Everyone assumes that their insurance company will cover the damages they cause. But the company can conclude that you have acted with gross negligence,” insurance expert Anne Garde Slothuus told news wire Ritzau.

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“That would always be a concrete assessment in an individual situation, so I can’t say with certainty when something is grossly negligent,” she said.

“Often things are caused by absent-mindedness, and then it will your word against the insurance company. But you could risk having to go to the appeals board for insurance or to court for a ruling on whether you acted with gross negligence,” she said.

If it is deemed that a person caused damage by gross negligence, they are likely to have to pay the full or partial price of damages.

“The vast majority of insurance companies have exceptions related to gross negligence in intentional actions,” Slothuus said.

“If you should have realised that your actions could cause damage, that is tantamount to gross negligence,” she said.

This means that members of the public should think carefully about starting open fires during the drought.

This is particularly the case for Baltic Sea island Bornholm at the time of writing, where a ban on open air fires is currently in effect.

The ban, which is in place for an initial two weeks, means that it is forbidden on Bornholm to burn garden waste, start bonfires or use any kind of barbecue if “burning has the effect of making embers”, the Bornholm regional municipality said.

“If a ban has been issued and you cause damage, that is moving towards a case of gross negligence,” Slothuus said.

“But there will still be individual assessment of each case,” she noted.

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