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In September last year a first-year teacher left his car parked outside Wellington's Amora Hotel on a windy Wellington day while he had breakfast with his parents who were guests at the hotel. The strong winds caused a window to blow out, landing on his 2000 Nissan Pulsar and damaging its windscreen, side window and bodywork.
He had only third-party car insurance. So while he was covered for accidental damage to another person's vehicle or property, he wasn't covered for damage to his own car. He would have been covered if he’d had comprehensive car insurance.
Amora had insurance but it wasn’t considered legally liable because the incident was an act of God caused by a “storm event” beyond the hotel’s control. The teacher wasn't happy with the response and so the case was investigated by Chartis Insurance, the hotel’s insurer. He has since received $4200 in damages from them.
Our member Pat* backed his car into a car owned by his daughter Amy*, damaging both. His car had comprehensive insurance with AA Insurance and Amy’s car had third-party insurance with the same company. But AA Insurance initially didn’t pay out for the damage to Amy’s car because the insurance policy was under Pat, Pat's wife and Amy's name, even though the car was registered and owned by Amy.
Pat wrote to AA Insurance requesting a review of the decision, and included a copy of the car registration certificate. AA Insurance reviewed the claim and agreed to pay. It usually has a rule with third-party insurance that you can’t recover costs for damaging something you have a financial interest in, but the circumstances of Pat's claim were unique and the fair thing was to honour the claim.
AA Insurance defines third party as "your legal liability to pay compensation for accidental damage to another person's property [our emphasis] in New Zealand caused by your vehicle". So if Pat had registered both cars in his name – and even if the insurance policies had been in different names – AA Insurance probably wouldn’t have paid out.
Tip: If you don't agree with your insurer's decision, you should ask them to review it. If you’re still not happy, you can contact the Insurance and Savings Ombudsman.
*not actual names