You know what’s amazing? 3 months off work with a 4WD and camper trailer travelling the Coral Coast, Pilbara, Kimberley and Northern Territory. You know what’s not amazing? Getting part way through the trip and having two at fault insurance claims within two weeks of each other.
To say I was peeved would be an understatement. Looking back now, I can kind of see the funny side, but I wasn’t a happy bloke in the moment. The first, and last accident I had prior to this was about 8 years ago and it’s never a nice feeling.
As many of you would know, we partnered with Club 4×4 a few years back after swapping 4WD insurance on our 80 series Land Cruiser over to them. They covered our highly modified Land Cruiser up until we sold it and then moved to the Isuzu Dmax we have now.
They also cover Our camper trailer, and I’ve had positive things to say about them in the past. However, you can’t really review an insurance company until you’ve had to make a claim. Now, obviously this is not something you wish for, but the whole point of insurance is they are there for when a bad situation occurs, and to rectify it as seamlessly as possible.
After a week of driving from Perth to Broome (and enjoying some great spots along the way), we were soaking the laid back atmosphere up and enjoying a lot of time on Cable Beach. I’d promised Sarah fish and chips one evening so we headed out from the caravan park to pick some up.
On the way, I pulled off the road at the bank to get some cash out. I jumped back into the car, put it in reverse and rolled back just enough to clear a little scooter in front of us, to pull back onto the road. Bang. Instantly, I knew I’d messed up. Someone had pulled in behind me while I was out of the car, and I hadn’t noticed. There were about 6 car bays behind me, all empty when I arrived, and someone had chosen to park right behind me.
With a sinking feeling, I pulled forwards half a metre and jumped out, to see the damage.
‘Did you just hit me’? A rather irate woman walked over, giving me the evils. ‘Uh, yeah, sorry….’. A quick inspection revealed zero damage to my vehicle, as the tow hitch had taken the hit. On her Suzuki Vitara though, it’d pushed the weak aluminium nudge bar back and damaged the bumper.
I was pretty annoyed at myself, but couldn’t do anything except exchange details, pick up the fish and chips and have them over another Cable Beach sunset. It certainly cast a sombre mood over our usual Cable Beach evening.
Now, I have no one to blame but myself. Had I have checked my mirrors, or the reverse camera, I’d have noticed straight away. However I was distracted by an impatient, noisy toddler in the back and chatting to Sarah, and didn’t think about looking behind me. After all, there were 6 empty car bays behind me, right?!
Making a claim
I rang to submit a claim, but they were shut until the next day. Shame; I was really hoping to put it all behind me. The following day though, I was put through, and told the process would take about 20 minutes. No worries.
I was asked about what happened, along with quite a few questions, which were extremely thorough:
‘Did you admit fault?’
‘In the 12 hours leading up to the accident, did you consume any drugs or alcohol?’
‘Were you wearing glasses, and does your license say you need to be?’
‘Do you believe you were at fault?’
‘Is the damage likely to cost more than your excess?’
I wasn’t expecting such a comprehensive set of questions, but they were fair, and I can understand where they come from.
A short while later, an email arrived, with paperwork and more instructions. Being on the road for 3 months meant this was a pain in the backside. I had to find somewhere who would print paperwork out for me, and draw the little diagram of where vehicles were, what happened and sign it all off.
I was also asked to send a copy of my drivers license, and to get a copy of my driving history, which you can only do at a police station. Off I toddle to the Broome cop shop, pay my $25.60 and walk out with a piece of paper in hand. I scanned it all (camscanner is an awesome app!) and sent it off, hoping to never have to think about it again.
I had to pay an $850 excess, which hurt a bit, but the claim was a lot more than that.
Not even two weeks later, we were staying at Katherine and had pretty much exhausted our list of things to see, except for the Lower River region. We had a quick breakfast, and jumped in the Dmax to have a look. A few minutes later we parked in the gravel car park and got out for a wander around.
It’s a beautiful area, with water flowing under a small bridge. We took some snaps, sat around and let Oliver run some of his energy off.
Hopping back into the car to leave, I reversed out with extreme caution. Checking both mirrors and the reversing camera, I was still very aware of the accident in Broome. With the steering wheel locked one way, and checking the car next to me and camera, I rolled back gently. I saw another vehicle waiting for me, and rolled back a bit further. Bang.
I couldn’t believe it. What could I have possibly hit? I got out and had a quick look, sighting damage to the rear left corner of the ute canopy before sheepishly jumping in the Dmax and heading back to the caravan park. I’d managed to hit a tree (which had lots of marks on it already) that grew up about 60cm before heading directly horizontal and then up. It didn’t display in my camera, and I would have only seen it for a split second in the left mirror if I’d been looking at it in the exact moment.
A part of me wondered whether it was just going to need a new bumper, which I was planning on doing anyway. However, that thought was soon pulled up short when I looked carefully into both mirrors, and could see the canopy sitting out of square. Moments later, a horrible thought crossed my mind. The fuel filler was attached to the canopy, and only had about 40mm clearance from the cab of the vehicle; I wonder if it had moved forward into the panels of the cab?
My worst fears were realised when pulling into camp and I got out, inspecting the fuel filler. The whole canopy on one side had gone forward about 80mm, punctured a hole in the panel and also pushed it in before springing back a little. I wanted to curl up and disappear. I took some time to really look at the damage, and see if anything else had been done.
The 3 mounts on the passenger side of the canopy had moved, or been bent forward, the bumper was a bit out of shape and the canopy was sitting on an angle. The panel damage was bad, especially given its position – this panel runs from the wind screen along the side of the roof to the back of the cab, down the side, and then forward again along the sills. I wasn’t sure how easily it would be to repair, but I knew it would be expensive.
A quick call to Club 4×4, who reassured me and gave me some great information regarding a $1000 emergency repair fund, and told me to continue the trip and lodge a claim when I got home, given it was still driveable. The repair fund is to do repairs required to keep you on the road, until you are able to stop and make a claim.
I spent a few hours moving the canopy back as best as possible, tightening the bolts up, panel beating the canopy wing and gluing the cracked bit back together. From a distance, you’d barely know there was damage, except for the two dents near the fuel filler. The canopy still didn’t sit perfectly square, but with only 10mm difference from side to side I wasn’t going to muck with it when everything was fully loaded up
All of the doors, including Oliver’s and the two canopy ones opened and closed fine and there didn’t seem to be any structural damage to anything except a tray mount, which was twisted badly.
Due to head to Lorella Springs the next day, I was extremely angry, but still glad knowing it wasn’t going to affect our remaining 2 months of holidays! I could have called upon the $1000 emergency fund if the doors were not shutting properly, and had it temporarily fixed mid trip prior to the actual claim, but fortunately didn’t need to.
The most frustrating thing about it all was that I was paying attention, driving carefully and still hit the tree. I took some time to look at the reversing camera, and realised where I’d been unlucky. Where the camera was mounted, it didn’t display all the way to the very corners of the tray, and I hit the tree right on the corner. I’d also not seen it in the mirrors, as the tree wasn’t vertical; it grew up a little and then took off to the side.
Needless to say, my driving after two accidents was extremely timid, checking every move I made over and over. Two x $850 excesses on top of the cost of the trip, for two claims with Club 4×4. Not happy, Jan.
Making a claim back in Perth
A few months later, we arrived back in Perth. My canopy adjustments had help up just fine and I was keen to get it all sorted. A quick call to Club 4×4 again and some more questions and paperwork, and it was done. Given the two accidents were so close together they used my existing drivers history, and processed it all.
I was given a recommended repairer, who wasn’t too far from my house. Due to the location of the damage, and the canopy on the back of the Dmax, it had to be removed first. From there, the vehicle could be trucked to the repair shop and fixed and then sent back to Bull Motor Bodies.
Repairing the Dmax
There was some miscommunication at the panel shop, and they requested a brand new canopy without even looking at the possibility of repairing the existing one. A new canopy would have been nice, but wasteful and a hassle in having to fit everything back in (drawer systems, electrical gear etc). After a bit more digging and phone calls, Bull Motor Bodies recommended repairing the existing canopy.
I was told just over a week to have the repairs done, and it was just squeezed in.
I dropped the vehicle off and picked it up a week later. Bull Motor Bodies were flawless, and come highly recommended. The panel shop also did a good job, except for the miscommunication and flap vent that had some glue smeared and wasn’t stuck down properly. A quick visit back to them and it was all sorted.
Club 4×4 Review
After having to make two claims with Club 4×4, I think I can accurately comment on the way they run their business, and what its like to be on the receiving end of their services.
In a word, they were fantastic. There was a tiny admin error (they couldn’t find my first excess payment) but in the grand scheme of things it all went a smoothly as I could have hoped. Communication was regular, high quality and helpful. Their customer service great, and consistent. You really do feel terrible going through the motions of making an insurance claim, and Club 4×4 were professional and courteous. It makes a difference.
There were no unreasonable hurdles to jump through, no issues with the huge list of modifications on the Dmax, no shortage of communication to find out what was going on and I never felt like I was getting the short end of the stick. Kudos to Club 4×4.
I’ve just had the renewals come through for the Dmax and Camper trailer, and will continue to use Club 4×4. Hopefully there’s at least another 8 years before I have to claim again!