Caravan Rollover

The following is an extract of one Queensland couple’s caravan rollover experience in 2005 (names have been changed to protect privacy) Both the vehicle and the caravan were a total loss. The couple lived in Hervey Bay, Qld and were travelling in the Northern Territory. The information provided brings to light some issues to consider when taking out insurance cover:-

“Firstly, to anyone travelling long distances, we would recommend RACQ’s Ultra Care Membership. We also recommend having your ownership, insurance and registration of your vehicles in both names if that is practicable. In the event of any trauma to either of you, it makes things so much simpler. When a vehicle is registered in joint names, it allows for third party claim by a joint owner who may be a passenger. Third party insurance and what it covers are not exactly the same across the states and territories. Because in our case it was the passenger who was injured and the driver was covered for third party, medical expenses can be met through the scheme. That would not have been the case if it had been the driver who suffered, so people may wish to look at covering themselves with personal accident insurance.

Because of the extent of his injuries, John (passenger) had an inter-hospital flight from Katherine Hospital to Darwin Hospital. This amounted to $1400 and has been paid under medical expenses in the third party claim. Ongoing rehabilitation costs are also significant.

Because we were in RACQ Ultra Care as well as having both the Cruiser and caravan insured with RACQ (but not a separate policy for contents), it’s a little hard to work out exactly to whom all the assistance we received is due. Ultra Care were the first people I spoke to on the phone from Katherine, not long after John had been flown up to Darwin, and they were very supportive.

I think that Aussie Assist is the company that actually organised and paid for both our air repatriation from Darwin to Hervey Bay and my expenses in NT, motel bill for the three nights in Katherine and taxi fares to and from the hospital while I was feeding and otherwise caring for John. From later perusal of the insurance policy, it seems to me that we may have been entitled to some of this assistance anyway as a result of our insurance cover. However, the Ultra Care would have provided at least some of this assistance in the event of a breakdown as well as an accident. Some insurance companies automatically seem to use Aussie Assist if their client is away from their home base.

Certainly I found all three of these parties very helpful to deal with over the phone, even in my rather distressed condition when I probably wasn’t sounding as rational as I usually (?) do. Once we advised Aussie Assist that John had been cleared for release from hospital, at about 10.30am, it took them under four hours to have flight confirmations for us and they offered to arrange accommodation between his release at 3pm and the arrival time at the airport at 11.30pm. They also had wheelchairs waiting at the airports.

RACQ also handled the claims and assessment processes by phone and most of that went quite smoothly. One of the policies was in both names and the other only in John’s, which meant that he actually had to speak to people on the phone (very difficult when you are in sandbags) to authorise things. As the van was almost new, we received a reasonable sum for it. When I first contacted them about the claim for the van, I did stress to them that it had been destroyed, along with everything in it, assuming that that would be sufficient information to claim what little contents cover ($500) the policy allowed. On receipt of the payout, however, we discovered that there had been no compensation for loss of contents at all. Although we did recover some of our belongings, that $500 would be easily accounted for merely in the food, food containers and kitchenware that were lost. It should be noted that when a vehicle is towed from the scene of an accident to storage, the tow-truck operator is obliged to dump all food.

We were not entirely happy with the payout we received for the vehicle, although we do understand that due to its age and the equipment we had added/upgraded ready for the trip we would be unlikely to recoup our expenses from any insurance company. Make sure that if possible you remove and retain the number plates from the wrecked vehicle/s, as you need these to cancel the registration when you get back to Queensland.

Secondly, as long as the state or territory you are in has a reciprocal arrangement with Queensland, you are covered for all Ambulance expenses relating to your accident. All you have to do is find the address in Brisbane to which to send the bills when they arrive, along with proof that you contribute to the Ambulance levy with your electricity bill. It may benefit you to check which states are not reciprocal and pay their membership charge while you are travelling through, as an ambulance trip from an emergency site can be a long and costly one in many parts of this country. John’s from Mataranka to Katherine was in excess of $2000.

Moderator’s note – The Queensland Government – Queensland Treasury website (last updated 31/3/07) states – ‘Since 1 July 2003, all Queensland residents have been automatically covered for the cost of emergency ambulance services, anywhere, anytime across Australia. The Community Ambulance Cover levy helps fund the Queensland Ambulance Service’. See Article – Ambulance Cover

Thirdly, know what is in your possession. Some removals firms will perform a “salvage uplift” of personal possessions from vehicles after an accident. In our case, once the insurance assessor gave the go-ahead and nominated what items were not included in the insurance payout, a Katherine removalist packed much of what was left in the car and the van, then stored the boxes in Katherine until they had a load coming to Queensland. It took about eight weeks and several phone calls before our belongings finally arrived, at our expense (of about $500) for the cartage. When they did arrive, it was obvious that not everything that should have been included had been sent. Some of our things had been misdirected, with two Akubras turning up at Kilcoy, Queensland. Some had simply been left in the wreckage and not packed. Other property was said to have “disappeared” from the wreckage but was later “found”. Further inquiries, including a report to police detailing the missing property and where it was situated in the van, and an extra freight charge, were necessary before we regained an extra thousand dollars’ worth of goods. A considerable amount of our personal items have never been recovered and we have no expectation that they will turn up. We were fortunate to have been travelling in company with other vanners, who stayed with the wreckage to prevent looting, until it was loaded onto the tow-trucks. We owe these people a debt of gratitude, as they took charge of some of our most precious personal belongings and delivered them later to the police in Katherine. If they had not stayed, there may have been very little property left to be salvaged. As you can see there is merit in travelling with other vanners.

One small, extra recommendation: our laptop, with all our trip diary, photos and much other personal stuff, survived the rollover thanks to its cushioned alloy attaché case. For the small extra investment of $80, all those records were retrievable when our back-up discs were destroyed. I was also able to stay in contact with most people via email, which was a blessing.

This type of accident can happen to any caravanner and, according to Northern Territory Police, does on a regular, unpublicised basis up there.”

James Mitchell

Hi, I’m Jimmy Mitchell and I love exploring this great country with my wife and two boys. I have a 2015 Sterling LX that is the Mitchell Family camping machine. Lets Getaway is the website where I share things about my trailer as I learn them, and help other camper owners to enjoy their RV even more.

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