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Under the Coroners Act 2009, the coroner has a responsibility to determine the cause and origin of fires that destroy or damage property in NSW.
There is a standing NSW Police Taskforce that is responsible for reporting this season's bushfires to the coroner. Not every fire will be reported to the coroner. However, damage to or destruction of your property must be reported to your local Police for the details to be included in any fire report to the coroner.
The police carrying out investigations into the bushfires are canvassing affected regions and providing questionnaires for affected property owners to complete in order to report property damage or destruction. If you have not received this questionnaire and wish to report damage to or destruction of your property, you should contact your local police station or you can complete an online report form available on the NSW Police website.
If you have any questions about whether your property has been included in a fire report to the coroner, you should contact the court registry's bushfire files team by telephone on (02) 8584 7777 or email on email@example.com.
It is too early to determine how long the coronial investigation process into any bushfire that is reported to the coroner will take. When a bushfire is reported, the coroner will make orders for the police to investigate and prepare a brief of evidence. This complex work is carried out by specialist fire investigators and will require some months to complete. Given the scale of this season's bushfires, it is not expected that any briefs of evidence will be received by the coroner until at least November 2020. This date may be extended due to the impact of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.
Until the police brief of evidence is received by the coroner, the coroner is unable to make a decision about whether or not an inquiry into the cause and origin of a reported bushfire will be held.
Once the police brief is received, the coroner will review all the evidence and decide whether the case can be finalised without the need to hold an inquiry. An inquiry will only held where the coroner decides that more evidence is needed to determine the cause and origin of the bushfire.
The coronial investigations relate only to the cause and origin of reported bushfires. The NSW Government has established an independent inquiry into the bushfires that will review the causes of, preparation for and response to the 2019-20 bushfires. Information about the independent inquiry, including its terms of reference and how to make a submission, is available on its website.
Once you have reported any damage to or destruction of your property, it is unlikely that you will need to be further involved in the coronial investigation process. However, you may be contacted if required or to keep you informed of how the coronial process is progressing.
If you have any questions about the progress of the coronial investigation process, you can contact the court registry's bushfire files team by telephone on (02) 8584 7777 or email on firstname.lastname@example.org. If possible, please include the Coroner's File Number or the Event Number given to you by the police.
If a fire has been reported to the coroner, you do not need to wait until the coronial process is complete before you make an insurance claim. Generally, most insurance companies will encourage you to notify them about your claim as soon as possible and will ask you to provide the police Event Number that relates to the fire that destroyed or damaged your property.
Processes and requirements for assessing and finalising a claim can differ between insurance companies. You will need to discuss the steps for finalising your claim with your insurance company.
11 May 2020
We acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land on which we work and we pay respect to the Elders, past, present and future.