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Crash claim denied after theft victim collides with own stolen car

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A man who followed his stolen car after spotting it travelling on the road has had a crash claim denied after insurer Auto & General Services said the accident was the “direct result” of efforts to stop the theft.

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) said the insurer should pay a claim related to the theft, but ruled a separate claim for damage to the second insured vehicle following the crash should be denied.

The man lodged the theft claim after the car disappeared from the driveway where it was parked overnight.

A few days later he and his wife were returning from a party in the early hours of the morning, in the other insured vehicle, when they saw the stolen car on the road.

They followed behind for a few kilometres and called the police, describing that the stolen car was speeding and being driven recklessly.

Police advised against chasing the vehicle and the man says they were heading home when “suddenly out of the blue” the stolen car emerged in front of the couple and there was a head-on collision. The man estimated the stolen car was travelling at more than 100 km/h.

The insurer’s forensic expert examined the vehicles and used crash data retrieval to present a different description of the accident, suggesting the stolen car’s driver was trying to get out of the way when it was hit.

The expert report indicates the couple’s vehicle was travelling at 50 km/h when it hit, in a front-to-front corner manner, the stolen vehicle, which was moving at about 10km/h and turning sharply to the right.

The report concluded “the rapid and extensive right-hand steering input” may have been out of efforts by the stolen car’s driver to remove themselves from the path of the other car, which had been advancing at speeds of up to 69 km/h.

The insurer denied the crash claim, on the basis that the loss and damage was deliberately caused, and the policy excluded any loss, damage or liability deliberately caused by the insured, or resulting from the driver acting in a wilful or reckless manner.

AFCA made no finding regarding the motive behind the crash, but noted the forensic expert’s report is thorough, logical and its conclusions compelling.

“Those conclusions seriously challenge the version of events as provided by the complainant and the credibility of his claim,” the decision says. “The complainant has not established he suffered a loss that is covered by the terms of the policy.”

On the theft claim, the insurer says the complainant was advised the claim for the stolen vehicle would be withdrawn as the only damage was the result of the collision. The insured told AFCA he did not withdraw the claim.

The AFCA adjudicator says he is satisfied the theft was genuine and “if there is any loss or damage arising from the theft of vehicle one, then the policy held by the complainant for vehicle one would respond”.

The decision is available here.