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Ombudsman urges people to follow rules for driving on beaches

Consumers should take care to avoid circumstances that could result in an insurance claim, says the Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman Karen Stevens. This comes after a driver lost his vehicle after driving into the sea to wash its underside.

“My car insurance has been rejected as my car was accidentally drowned at the beach” was Clive’s- description of events when he complained to the Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme (IFSO Scheme). The IFSO Scheme deals with complaints about insurers and financial service providers, and in Clive’s case, did not uphold the complaint.

“Consumers have an obligation to take reasonable care of their property and belongings. House, contents, car and travel insurance policies will often contain reasonable care conditions. If you don’t follow these conditions, your insurer may decline your claim,” says Stevens.

Aside from driving into the sea where underwater hazards could not be easily identified, Clive had also ignored the local council’s rules about driving on the beach, which were signposted at the beach entrance. These included requiring drivers to hold a permit to drive on the beach and carry safety equipment in their vehicle. Access to the beach was also limited to three hours either side of low tide. Clive did not follow any of these rules.

“It’s important not only from a safety perspective, but also from an insurance perspective, that you follow your local council’s rules for driving on a beach. These rules are in place for a reason, and they help prevent accidents from happening,” Stevens says.

“In Clive’s case, it was clear that he hadn’t taken reasonable care when he drove his vehicle onto the beach and into the sea. A reasonable person would not have made the choices that he made. Unfortunately for Clive, that meant his insurer was able to decline the claim,” she says.

Stevens says that most people are aware they have to take care of their property, however there is a steady stream of complaints to the IFSO Scheme where claims are declined because of breaches of reasonable care conditions. She says consumers should take time to understand their responsibilities, and be aware of what to do if problems arise.

“Doing your best to avoid having to make an insurance claim in the first place is a good first step. But if you do run into issues with a claim being declined, and believe you have taken reasonable care of your insured property, get in touch with us,” she says.

Consumers can make a complaint to the IFSO Scheme at www.ifso.nz or by calling 0800 888 202.

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