It is not uncommon for a vehicle to cause damage to a Member’s building, wall, fence, etc. Ordinarily, the damage is fairly minor and a recovery against the responsible driver is straightforward. In this case, however, the damage was relatively severe and the recovery is presenting an unusual challenge.
One Saturday afternoon, a van ran off a public road and entered the Member’s campus. In doing so, the van knocked over a bollard and some fencing before knocking over, and destroying, two large illuminated signs. These signs were relatively new, having been installed in 2013 as part of campus rebranding. The estimated cost of replacing the signs, bollard and fencing is $44,000. The van was extensively damaged in the incident.
As part of his work, the loss adjuster sent a preliminary Letter of Demand to the driver of the vehicle, but received no response. We have now taken over this aspect of the claim. The photographs of the incident show the name of an electrical contractor on the side of the van. We looked up this company on the internet and obtained a mobile phone number. We rang this number and spoke to the business owner. He advised us that the driver of the van was no longer an employee had “disappeared”. Further, he advised that the driver had been intoxicated and was using the vehicle without authorisation at the time of the incident. The business owner advised that the van had been written off by the insurer and that the claim in respect of the damage to the vehicle had been settled. He also provided the name of the insurer.
We contacted the insurer, who advised that they could find no record of the claim under the business name, date of loss or registration number. We did an ASIC search and obtained the registered address and principal place of business address for the business, as well as the business owner’s home address. We then wrote to the business, holding it responsible for the damage to the Member’s property and asking that our letter be forwarded to the insurer.
Eventually, we received an email from the insurer, declining our claim and saying that, because the driver had been “on a frolic of his own”, the business could not be held liable for the damage. The insurer suggested that we pursue a claim against the driver.
We are currently obtaining legal advice as to whether the business can be held liable for the damage to the Member’s property in these circumstances. If it can, we shall press the claim against the business and, by extension, against the insurer.