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‘My totalled lorry was repaired, resold’

 | August 11, 2012

A businessman is determined to find 'justice', claiming to have been cheated when his lorry, first defined as a 'total loss', could subsequently be repaired and sold to someone else.

PETALING JAYA: When Michael Januarius had a minor accident with his lorry last year, his insurance company told him it was ‘totalled’ and can never be repaired.

Having no choice but to accept that, he was absolutely dumbfounded when almost a year later, the 55-year-old businessman found out that the same lorry had not only been repaired, but it was in the process of being sold to a new buyer.

Recounting this ordeal to FMT, Januarius said that the accident occurred on Feb 18, 2011, where a Volvo car had rammed into his lorry, a Toyota Hiace, while it exited an inner road at a junction along Jalan 21/27, near Taman Paramount.

The impact, according to Januarius, caused damage to front left side of the lorry: including the door, the mudguard and one of the front lights. The rear white “Luton box” of the lorry was apparently untouched, he said.

Noting that the damage was not severe, Januarius then drove to the police station and had the vehicle towed for repairs at one Kiam Son Motor Sdn Bhd workshop.

So Januarius was quite puzzled when received a letter two months later from AmG Insurance Berhad [under AmBank Group] stating that the lorry has been classified as a “Constructive Total Loss”.

In the letter, an officer from the insurance company wrote:”As your vehicle has been assessed as a Constructive Loss our Loss Adjusters has confirmed that the vhehicle is not safe to ever be repaired and registered in Malaysia.”

Said Januarius:”I was very disappointed at that point, because it was a very minor accident where I drove to the police station when I lodged a report. Later, when negotiating with AmG Insurance, I asked AmG for a second opinion but it was denied. An officer told me thedecision of the insurance company was final.”

Januarius said that he was further perplexed that the insurance company had also refused to help him claim from the other party, despite police investigations which had determined that the fault lay with the Volvo driver.

“Mine was a comprehensive insurance, why couldn’t they claim from the other party? I was adamant but AmG also refused to help me.”

Lorry fully repaired

Naturally, he protested against these two issues.

“I then requested for a copy of the adjuster’s report, but I was not entertained, as they claimed that it was priviledged. Why doesn’t the owner of the vehicle have rights to that?” he asked.

Januarius also tried to ask for a second opinion of the adjuster’s but was also denied by AmG Insurance, which told him that the decision was “final and conclusive”.

After his failed attempts to change the fate of his lorry, Januarius finally accepted AmG Insurance’s “inadequate” amount of almost RM15,000, for the lorry. He did so “under protest”.

Thinking the matter settled, Januarius was shocked when on Jan 9 this year, he received a call from a workshop telling him that the lorry was fully repaired and pending registration as it was being sold.

For the purposes of registering the vehicle for the new buyer, Januarius was asked to provide several documents of his company, Betamobile Sdn Bhd, which the lorry was registered to.

“I got quite a few calls from the same workshop, asking for the documents, and when I asked, the workshop mentioned that the lorry was being sold for RM28,000. How could this be?”

“I was not only shocked, but heartbroken. Everything seemed very deceiving,” he said.

From then till today, Januarius had written numerous complaint letters to AmG Insurance, Persatuan Insurance Am Malaysia [PIAM] and Bank Negara, as well as lodging a police report. None of those bodies has so far been able to help him.

“I felt there was an element of fraud and would like the authorities to look into this matter seriously. How does a vehicle ‘unsafe’ to ever be repaired and registered in Malaysia, now gets to be repaired and sold off? Does this not warrant some serious explanation?”

“AmG was being unprofessional, misleading and unethical. This has caused much inconveniences and loss. Where is my consumer rights? It was inappropriate advise given, misrepresentation and apparently wrongful disposal of a roadworthy vehicle, ” said Januarius.

He said that he found out that AmG Insurance had confirmed that the ‘wreck’ was sold at RM1,500 to the panel repairer, and claimed that it did not know about the sale. Januarius said this was contained in a March 1 letter from AmG Insurance to PIAM on the matter.

“The vehicle was then repaired with the intention to have it sold to a new buyer. We do not have knowledge of this transaction until insured wrote a complaint letter and called us,” wrote the AmG Insurance in a letter.

The letter stated that AmG Insurance has asked repairer to cease all further sale transaction pending further investigation.

“How could the insurance company sell the vehicle. It should have put a caveat saying that it is not meant to be repaired or sold to any unsuspecting third parties. By not doing thus, it had given, knowingly or unknowingly, an opportunity to the subsequent buyers to exploit the situation gainfully.”

Legal suit

Januarius again stressed that the decision to sell the wreck at RM1,500 clearly shows elements of “unhealthy practice and turpitude” which contradicts with the previous statement  “As your vehicle has been assessed as a Constructive Loss our Loss Adjusters has confirmed that the vhehicle is not safe to ever be repaired and registered in Malaysia.”

He said he was further infuriated when another letter from AmG Insurance claimed that it had done everything in line with guidelines and that the total loss was due to high costs of repairs.

“How could there be a change in reasoning to “unsafe” to “uneconomical”?”

“AmG Insurance has deviated and failed to give proper explanation. To date, AmG gave a motley of confused, ignorant, contradictory and devious replies to justify its stand by trampling our rights and interests.”

Calculating his losses of income and business due to the trouble he has gone through, Januarius had sent a letter claiming that AmG Insurance, due to its alleged negligence, owed him at least RM100,000.

Januarius said that on June 5, AmG Insurance then offered him the Compensation for Assessed Repair Time [CART] benefit, but he claimed that it was being used to sideline the issue.

“They offered to pay RM4,2000 [RM60x 70 days], but it is unacceptable. We did not even not subscribe for this benefit, is AmG offering this CART benefit as a connivance of their waywardness and placate us with imaginary compensation?”

Januarius said that he was now prepared to go all the way to stop such things from happening to others.

“I’m prepared for a legal suit. I want to stop all auto-vehicle insurance fraud of similar nature, and try to set a precedence where adjusters report are no longer secret documents. I will not stop until there is more transparency in all this,” he said.

AmBank: No wrongdoing

Meanwhile, DAP lawyer M Manoharan told FMT that he has taken up the case. “This kind of fraud has been going on for a while now.

We are going to send a notice to seek an explanation and if that fails, we will have no choice but to go to court.”

When contacted for a response, AmBank group sent an e-mail statement denying any wrongdoings.

It said that Januarius’s claim was settled “in accordance with his policy contract and in line with definitions used across the industry.”

“This settlement was based on our own internal claims processes and expertise, verification by independent qualified external assessors, as well as the report of the repair workshop.

”As stated, Mr Januariuswas paid in full for his claim in accordance with his policy contract.

He was also compensated for loss of use of his vehicle.”

It added that after Januarius accepted his payment, he had asked Bank Negara Malaysia to review the case, but the regulator had subsequently “found that AmG Insurance had acted correctly and that the settlement of his claim was fair and reasonable”

“Despite the full payment of his claim, and the finding by Bank Negara Malaysia in favour of AmG Insurance, Januarius has stated that he will pursue legal action against us – the details of which cannot be disclosed for obvious reasons,” said AmBank.

AmBank that it will continue to engage with Januarius to “determine to resolve this matter amicably and in a timely manner”.

Responding to AmBank’s statement, Januarius said that it was “deceiving”. “They’ve simply not answered the questions that I have raised,” he said.


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