Today’s question comes from

… a registered Paramedic, often responding to or transporting patients long distances after hours, late at night, early morning, and unfortunately these transports often result in collisions with kangaroos, causing damage to Ambulances, with Paramedics having to fill in insurance claims.

Recently the question came up as to whether filling out the insurance form would affect our personal insurance policies, no claim bonuses. I have contacted my personal insurance company and they state it does, but only new policies. I think this is very harsh as we would not usually be driving at these times due to high risk, but we are affected personally because of our occupation. Hope you can shed some light on this subject.

A contract of insurance is a contract of utmost good faith (Insurance Contracts Act 1984 (Cth) s 13).  An insured (in this context, the paramedic seeking to obtain or renew private insurance for his or her motor vehicle) has (s 21):

… a duty to disclose to the insurer, before the relevant contract of insurance is entered into, every matter that is known to the insured, being a matter that:

(a)  the insured knows to be a matter relevant to the decision of the insurer whether to accept the risk and, if so, on what terms; or

(b)  a reasonable person in the circumstances could be expected to know to be a matter so relevant, having regard to factors including, but not limited to:

(i)  the nature and extent of the insurance cover to be provided under the relevant contract of insurance; and

(ii)  the class of persons who would ordinarily be expected to apply for insurance cover of that kind.

The obvious way to know if a matter is relevant to the insurer is by reference to the questions they ask when one seeks to obtain, or renew, an insurance policy.

If a motor vehicle insurer asks about prior accidents, they are clearly not just asking about accidents in vehicles that they insure, as they would already have that information.  If a person was the driver in an accident in a car that they borrowed, or was insured by another company, they would want to know that so the information must be disclosed.  It stands to reason that they would also want to know about accidents when driving for work.

If the insurer asks about prior insurance claims that is a different matter.  The paramedic is not the insured in an ambulance accident, the ambulance service is.  The paramedic is filling in the form as agent for the ambulance service as they are the person who nows what happened.  The fact that they are the one filling in the form does not make them the ‘insured’ or the claimant.

The critical issue is to answer the insurers questions and to provide information (whether requested or not) that is relevant to their assessment of risk.  The fact that the accident happened, not that the paramedic did or did not fill out an insurance form, is the relevant fact.

Whether the disclosure is relevant to the risk assessment is a matter for the insurer. An insurer may accept that the work-related accident does not reflect on their risk with respect to a private car so it does not follow that the disclosure will affect the premium that the insurer offers so I cannot say whether the disclosure will affect the premium. But it does seem clear that if an insurer asks about earlier accidents, the information about the accident must be disclosed and that is the case whether the paramedic has filled in an insurance claim form or not.