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'Highly improbable': driverís kangaroo story ruled a tall tale

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A driver who says a kangaroo ran from trees in a dark street, causing him to instinctively brake and accidentally hit a tree, has lost a dispute with his insurer.

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) ruled the evidence was “consistent with the collision being an intentional act”.

“The explanation provided – that the driver swerved to avoid a kangaroo – is inconsistent with the physical evidence and road topography and is highly improbable,” AFCA said.

The man held a comprehensive motor insurance policy with RACQ. After midnight in July, he and a friend were travelling at around 80 kilometres per hour on cruise control when they say a kangaroo appeared 15 or 20 metres in front of the car.

The friend says he shouted and the man braked to save the kangaroo’s life, causing the car to slide and hit the tree.

RACQ denied the man’s claim, saying it was fraudulent, that he provided false and misleading information and had not demonstrated that the accident was unforeseen and unintended.

AFCA says it is satisfied that a series of inconsistencies “significantly challenge the version of events which has been provided by the complainant in relation to his loss”.

The man told RACQ by telephone that the kangaroo “just bounced by” and by braking to save it, the car went out of control and hit the tree. He at first said just he and his friend were at the scene of the incident when the tow truck arrived, but he later altered this to say a passer-by and a woman were there as well. The police were not notified of the incident.

RACQ’s forensic collision analyst said after the car left the sealed road the driver corrected the steering to a straight-ahead position and drove the vehicle “in a straight line into the tree”. The driver made no attempt to steer in order to avoid the collision with the tree which occurred at a speed of about 37kmh.

Prior to the collision, the front passenger seat was moved “to a position that would have reduced the likelihood of the passenger sustaining injury in a frontal collision”.

That report “significantly challenges the version of events provided by the complainant and the credibility of his claim” and AFCA says it is satisfied the report was “logical and thorough and its conclusions are supported by several helpful photographs”.

AFCA said various inconsistencies did not assist credibility of the man’s claim:

• His failure to immediately advise of areas of prior damage to the car when first asked

• Two calls made from his phone to his friend on the morning of the accident when they said they were together

• Claims only four people were present at the accident when the tow truck driver reported six

• The man’s failure to mention a leaking water pump issue which received roadside assistance days before the accident

• Differences in accounts by he and his friend of locations and movements prior to the accident

Meanwhile, a separate car claim dispute in Victoria which also involved swerving to avoid kangaroos was upheld by AFCA.

In that case, a man was driving his Holden Commodore along Harvest Home road in Melbourne’s outer north at around 1.40am in wet conditions in December 2018 when two kangaroos crossed the road. He hit at least one and swerved into a tree trying to dodge them.

He held a comprehensive insurance policy with Suncorp with an agreed value of $19,000 which covered accidental loss or damage caused by a "single occurrence which you did not intend or expect to happen".

“Whilst there was an opportunity to stage the accident, it is also just as possible the circumstances were genuine. Likely more so given other evidence,” AFCA ruled.

AFCA says forensic expert findings were consistent with the man’s evidence and disagreed with Suncorp that there was persuasive evidence of monetary motive, saying it was “not clear an accepted claim would result in any financial windfall”.

The man was satisfied to have the vehicle repaired and was employed and not in financial distress, AFCA said.

Click here for the RACQ case, and here for the Suncorp decision.