A shipyard worker from Falmouth said he “couldn’t sleep for weeks” due to worry after receiving a notice from an accident claims company seeking £13,000 for a hire car that he believed was provided free of charge from his insurers following an accident.
Duane Petrauske, a 58-year-old worker at Falmouth Docks, received the demand for payment out of the blue and is warning other motorists to be aware of falling into the same trap.
He said: “I had an accident in my own car and sent an accident report to my insurance company the same day. The broker, Hastings Direct, said they asked their approved accident claims company, Auxillis, to handle matters.
“Auxillis contacted me and offered me a like-for-like replacement car. I thought this was the free courtesy car which I was entitled to under the terms of my insurance policy.
“I had paid extra for a policy which included a replacement car and I thought I was dealing with the insurance company but it was actually the claims company working on behalf of the broker.
“I have been really worried about finding £13,000 to pay this and I’ve suffered a lot of sleepless nights over it.”
He told the Packet that it “seems like a legal scam”, adding: “It is scary. I couldn’t sleep for weeks; it’s all I could think about, worrying how I was going to get the money.
“I got just under £2,500 for my car and have been billed for £13,000.
“I told them,’ You’re my insurance company – you should be looking after me’.”
Duane had the car, a BMW 5 Series – similar in size to his own damaged car – for five weeks, and was charged £300 a day – well above normal car hire rates.
He contacted Citizens Advice Cornwall for help after initially being given just seven days to pay off the whole charge.
Citizens Advice adviser, Glynis Davies, who has taken up Duane’s case, said: “It seems that Hastings Direct did not make clear to Mr Petrauske that he had been put through to a claims company and not his insurer. The policy he paid for included a free like-for-like hire car in the event of an accident and this is what he thought he was getting.
“Mr Petrauske was not aware he would be charged £13,000 for the car organised by the claims management company, which in any event is way over the normal rate for hiring a car.
“It is difficult for people making claims immediately after an accident to work out if they’re talking to their insurers, the brokers or a claims management company.
“The industry must make clear what the customer’s options are, who they are talking to and what they are going to be charged, and give them time to read any small print and consider their options.”
Citizens Advice is continuing to work with Mr Petrauske to help solve his issue and the debt company has extended the deadline for payment.
Duane added: “I want to make sure people are aware of how I and others have got into this situation and insist they are given full and accurate information after an accident.”
A spokesperson for Hastings Direct told the Packet: “Mr Petrauske’s ‘Premier’ policy did include a courtesy car for the duration of any accident related repairs, however in this instance his vehicle was a total loss and therefore he would not have been entitled to a courtesy vehicle (as explained in the policy wording).
“Due to the nature of Mr Petauske’s claim we are currently reviewing his complaint and will provide an update soon.”