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Loyal insured's claim denied after 'rookie mistake'

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A motorist who has been with the same insurer for 43 years had a claim denied after her vehicle was stolen from outside her home while she was in a distressed state about her father’s worsening health.

Suncorp denied the claim after the theft on January 16 because the insured initially admitted she had left her handbag containing the car’s key fob in the vehicle.

But she took her case to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), arguing the denial was unfair and that it can’t be proven that the fob was left in the vehicle.

The complainant moved her vehicle from her garage to the front of her home to make it easier for her father, who was being driven back by the complainant’s brother from interstate because his health was deteriorating, to access the property.

That night the vehicle was stolen, and the following day a claim was lodged and Suncorp provided AFCA with a copy of the call.

“This is where I confess I shifted the car last night for my elderly father … so they could put their car in and I’ve left my handbag, with the key – it’s a keyless car – so because the handbag was in the car, the key was in the car,” she told the insurer’s consultant.

When the consultant asked if the key had been stolen she replied: “Yep, rookie, dumb mistake, that I can’t believe I did.”

Suncorp later knocked back the claim relying on an exclusion that denies cover “if the car is left unattended, unlocked and with the keys left in the car”.

The complainant then argued that she couldn’t recall where she had left her handbag and could not be sure it was left in the car.

But the vehicle was later recovered with the fob, and AFCA ruled that on the balance of probabilities it had been left in the car. Damage to the vehicle was quoted at almost $10,000.

AFCA says, while it empathises with the insured's situation, Suncorp is entitled to deny the claim and does not need to compensate the complainant.

“She says she has been a customer of the insurer for 43 years,” the ruling says.

“She feels its handling of the matter was inappropriate and this distressed her.

“I acknowledge the loss of her vehicle and the denial of her claim was difficult. I further acknowledge the situation with her father caused further distress at the time of the loss.

"I am not satisfied the insurer’s actions in denying the claim were unreasonable. Based on the provided evidence it informed the complainant at the earliest opportunity of the likely outcome. The insurer is and was entitled to deny the claim.”

Click here to read the full ruling.