MOTOR VEHICLE INSURANCE CLAIMS AND DISCLOSURE OF SENSITIVE INFORMATION

I’ve just lodged a motor vehicle insurance claim - why does my insurer want copies of my phone record and bank statements?

Getting into a car accident is often only the start of weeks (or even months) of frustration. For an especially unfortunate few, the process of lodging a motor vehicle claim (MVC) is made even more daunting upon receiving a letter from their insurer’s fraud department indicating that the claim is being investigated for fraud and a number of highly personal documents are required from the claimant.

Why am I being investigated?

Investigations into the validity of MVCs are routinely launched in instances where insurers have reason to believe that there may be an ulterior motive for the claimant to be seeking an insurance payout. The reasons insurers will often request documentation such as bank statements and a recent telephone history is to allow them to identify any circumstantial evidence that may point toward a motive for fraud. For example, large amounts of debt or money going out of the claimant’s bank account might suggest that they may be desperate for a quick payout, while telephone records are used to corroborate details of the claimant’s report such as whether they might have immediately called roadside assistance when they said they did, or whether there were some other unreported communications made at the time.

Do I have to hand over my bank and telephone records?

The provision of complete information for any claim will often form part of an insurer’s policies, which a claimant would ordinarily have agreed to upon taking out the insurance cover. The policies are dependent upon who the insurer is and may also be influenced by what national association(s) they are a members of.

Specific obligations of insureds to effect disclosure of information during a claim, such as bank statements and phone records, are not explicitly enshrined in statute, however, Section 13 of the Insurance Contracts Act 1984 (Cth) provides for a shared duty of insurers and insureds to act in utmost good faith toward one another. The meaning of “utmost good faith” implies a wide ambit for interpretation but has been adopted in general by courts to include a duty of disclosure, ordinarily crystallised within the individual insurer’s policy papers, obligating the insured person to produce material information known to him or her related to the subject matter of the claim (see for instance Mayne Nickless Ltd v Pegler [1974] 1 NSW LR 228 and Permanent Trustee Australia Ltd v FAI General Insurance Co Ltd (1998) 151 ALR).

In other words, the duty to comply with an insurer’s request for information will usually fall under both the policy documents antecedent to the insurance agreement and the common law duty to effecting ‘good faith’ disclosures between parties in such situations.

What if I don’t want to give my insurer the information they’re asking for? 

This question is dependent upon the individual insurer’s approach to responses to their requests for information; however, they may decide to reject your claim given the onus lies on the claimant to provide evidence to substantiate a genuine accident.  Put simply, if you decide to challenge or reject your insurer’s request for information, they may form the opinion that there is potentially an ulterior motive for the claim being made, whereupon they may reject the claim in its entirety.

I’ve given my insurer the information they’ve asked for but now they’re asking for even more!

If your insurer does make a further request for more or other information, we would suggest you contact us to determine whether it is reasonably necessary for such information to be provided. Alternatively, if your insurer rejects your claim even after the requested material has been provided, we can assist you with appealing their decision to increase your chances of securing a payout.

We appreciate that car accidents can be a highly stressful time and DSS Law is able to assist you every step of the way through the oft-complicated MVC dispute process, whilst also making sure your insurer is adhering to the appropriate laws in order to provide you with a fair outcome.

If you have recently been in a car accident and feel that the above may apply to you, call 1300 DSS LAW as soon as possible.

Thomas Klepper 12/08/2019

Disclaimer

DSS Law insight articles are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as formal legal advice. If you would like specific advice relating to this topic, please contact DSS Law on 1300 DSS LAW or epost@dsslaw.com.au.