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QBE exonerated in forged signature claim dispute

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A woman who says her ex-partner forged her signature and fled with funds from an insurance payout received for a house fire claim has lost a dispute with QBE.

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) ruled insurers are not obligated to undertake “forensic analysis of signatures” or call both co-insured parties prior to a settlement payment.

“I believe the dispute to be a civil matter between the co-insureds. QBE is therefore not required to make any further payments nor take any further action regarding this dispute,” the AFCA ombudsman ruled.

The woman held home and contents cover with QBE. A claim was lodged by her ex-partner on a joint policy following the fire, which caused damage to the home.

She told AFCA her ex-partner forged her signature on the release form and fled with the funds and requested that QBE provide further settlement funds for repairs to be undertaken to the property.

The woman reported the matter to the police but had not undertaken any civil proceedings against her ex-partner.

She sought the full settlement amount, saying QBE did not sufficiently verify the release document and she was not aware who the witness was. The bank account details provided by the co-insured were also different to the direct debit details which the premiums were deducted from.

She had some involvement with QBE’s loss adjusters and believed she would be contacted regarding any pressing matters.

AFCA said QBE fulfilled its policy obligations and was not liable to make any further payments.

“There is no legal requirement for funds to be paid to the same account given for policy premium deductions,” it said.

The ex-partner lodged the claim with QBE and dealt with all aspects of the claim from the onset. QBE said it could not have reasonably been aware the release form was fraudulently signed.

The insurer was never made aware of any relationship breakdown and at the time of the settlement payment, both parties were living together in temporary accommodation. They separated well after settlement of the claim had been finalised.

The woman did not contact QBE until nine months after settlement to confirm a breakdown of the relationship and that the co- insured had taken the funds.

QBE said that as the co-insured was authorised to deal with all aspects of the claim, full and final settlement could be made directly to him and it had no obligation or reason to contact the woman.

She was aware her ex partner was dealing with the claim on both their behalves at the time of lodgement and any subsequently claim related dealings.

“QBE was not made aware of any relationship breakdown throughout the claim and has settled an authorised party on the policy, in this instance being the co-insured,” AFCA said.

See the full ruling here.