Claimant wins dispute over 'undetectable' truck defects

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A truck driver who crashed after the vehicle’s front tyre blew out will be covered for losses after a dispute ruling determined its unroadworthy condition could not have been reasonably detected.

The driver’s parent company lodged a claim a day after he had been involved in the single-vehicle accident on April 5 last year.

The driver says the front right steer tyre “blew out”, which caused the tipper truck to collide with a concrete barrier. The vehicle was assessed as a total loss.

A QBE-appointed automotive engineering expert reviewed the vehicle and reported that the tyre suffered a tread separation which caused the claimant to “lose directional control of the truck and crash”.

The expert said the truck’s front tyres had defects that made it “unsafe and unroadworthy” and concluded the complainant “should have been aware of the condition of the steer tyres,” saying that standard inspection protocols conducted by a professional truck driver would have flagged the issue.

QBE declined the claim, referring to a policy exclusion that said it would not cover losses for vehicles in an “unsafe or unroadworthy condition unless such condition could not reasonably be detected by you”.

The complainant argued that the defect could not have been reasonably detected prior to the accident. It noted that the vehicle was regularly serviced, including just six weeks before the accident, where no issues were reported.

It confirmed all drivers were required to conduct “pre-start” checks before driving a vehicle, although it had no formal records available to show this.

The insurer said “no reasonable driver inspecting the truck could fail to miss the tyre issues,” saying that the truck operators should have had “sufficient experience and knowledge” to identify and deal with it.

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The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) acknowledged that the proximate cause of the crash was the defective tyres. However, it said it was not satisfied that the exclusion applied because the complainant took appropriate steps to ensure the vehicle was in good condition by having it regularly serviced and checked before being operated.

It accepted that the issues could have been detected with a “close inspection” of the tyres but said it was not fair to expect the insured to identify it.

“Whilst I acknowledge a close or professional inspection of the tyres might have alerted the complainant to the issue, I am not satisfied the exclusion applies,” AFCA said.

“If it was reasonable for the complainant or its staff to have been aware of the issue, I expect such a problem should have been apparent when the truck was last serviced.”

“At worst, the complainant’s failure was an oversight. There is no persuasive evidence the vehicle’s condition was, or reasonably should have been, detected.”

The ruling required the insurer to settle the complainant for the total loss truck at the insured sum of $150,000 or a market value, whichever was lesser.

Click here for the ruling.