CLAIMANTS to the $32.8 million Beechworth Black Saturday bushfire pay-out expect to have their first payments within weeks.
Solicitors representing those who lost property in the deadly 2009 fires will return to the Victorian Supreme Court on Monday, seeking an interim payment for those who have had their claims assessed.
A pay-out would be welcome relief to many, who have been waiting for their first payment since late last year.
But some claimants are unhappy with the amount they have been offered and say assessors have been zealous in judging their claims.
One victim, who asked not to be named, said many urgently needed money to pay for repairs to their properties.
She claimed assessors were valuing homes at up to 30 per cent less than what owners believed to be a fair figure.
While dissatisfied claimants can ask for a second opinion, going back and forth to mediation “really stresses us out”, she said.
“I can’t wait until it’s done and dusted,” she said.
“There’s a lot of heartache when you have to look and say ‘what’s my life worth?’”
Under the terms of the settlement, claimants will receive 45 per cent of their loss assessment and that will be paid out of the $32.8 million pool.
The claimants will receive half of their 45 per cent entitlement as their first payment.
Nevin Lenne and Gross solicitor Veronica Haccou said the claimants had settled on the 45 per cent figure because it was safer to settle at that amount than run the risk of going to trial and getting nothing.
“This was to be the biggest trial in the North East,” she said.
“But even if you win, there’s still the court costs at the end of it.
“No amount of money can compensate for what people have been through — this money is to assist them to get back on their feet.”
Maddens Lawyers principal Brendan Pendergast said all parties had been notified of their pay-out figure and that they since had had the opportunity to come forward if they had concerns with it.
He also said people could have their claim reassessed if they were unhappy with their offer.
“Obviously, victims will want to be assessed as highly as possible,” he said.
“If anyone is disgruntled, they have avenues of review available to them.”
He believed the $32.8 million court-ordered pay-out had been “reasonably adequate” to cover all 384 claimants — most of them signed on after the settlement was reached.
Both solicitors said it was hoped to have all claims and pay-outs made by the end of the year.
A final court proceeding would then be held early next year to wrap up the action.