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Policyholder denied payout after son’s ‘reckless’ 105kmh smash

A car owner who claimed for a vehicle written off in a crash by his son will not receive a payout after the complaints authority sided with his insurer’s application of a reckless driving exclusion.  

The son lost control of the car while speeding and hit a light pole about 6.30pm on June 4 last year – the same day the policy began. 

The driver told RAC Insurance he was travelling at the speed limit, saying he crashed because the car’s back end had “come out”. He said he attempted to “counter-steer”, to no avail. 

The insurer appointed a crash reconstruction expert who found the vehicle had been travelling at 105kmh three seconds before impact. The speed limit was 70kmh.  

The expert said the vehicle’s tyres were worn out, and wet weather conditions caused them to lose contact with the road surface.  

Their report concluded the driver was responsible for travelling at an appropriate speed and the crash was an “obvious consequence of not doing”.  

The car owner said the insurer provided no video footage of the crash and that police who responded to the incident did not charge the son with reckless driving.   

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority says the crash did not meet the criminal definition of reckless driving, but the policy exclusions hold different provisions, including whether the person’s actions were “deliberate and done with a conscious disregard for the risk”.  

Its dispute ruling says the son’s actions caused “deliberate exposure to exceptional danger”.  

“On the balance of probabilities, the complainant’s son must have known of the danger of driving as he did ... but nevertheless did so with a reckless indifference to the potential consequences. 

“The proximate cause of the damage to the vehicle was the excessive speed at which it was driven by the complainant’s son. While other factors were identified (such as the state of the car’s tyres, the rainfall, the complainant’s son’s experience as a driver ... in wet conditions), they were not the dominant cause of the collision.”  

Click here for the ruling.