Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Insurance dispute after driver swerves to miss one cow... hits another

Tauranga teen Angus Hamilton wants insurance company NZI to cover the costs of his smashed $14,000 ute after he swerved to avoid a cow standing in the middle of the road. Photo / 123RF
Tauranga teen Angus Hamilton wants insurance company NZI to cover the costs of his smashed $14,000 ute after he swerved to avoid a cow standing in the middle of the road. Photo / 123RF

An 18-year-old engineering apprentice is taking on one of New Zealand's biggest insurance firms in a dispute involving two cows, a four-wheel-drive, a farmer and a busted fence.

Tauranga teen Angus Hamilton wants insurance company NZI to cover the costs of his smashed $14,000 ute after he swerved to avoid a cow standing in the middle of the road.

Hamilton lost control of his four-wheel-drive on loose gravel and went down a bank, smashing through a fence and hitting another cow in a paddock.

That cow was badly injured in the incident and later had to be shot.

Hamilton believes both cows belonged to the same farmer, insured by NZI, and said the first one should not have been on the road.

"I was really lucky someone wasn't seriously injured or killed," Hamilton said.

"I came around the corner and it was just there, I had to swerve to avoid it."

Hamilton was heading home along the gravel road in Mamaku, Rotorua after an afternoon with an off-roading group, when the crash happened.

Hamilton's car was severely damaged in the crash.

He provided witness statements from an off-roading associate in the car in front of him and from one following but he said his attempts to claim have hit a brick wall.

"First they (NZI) said there was no cow, then they said I was going too fast, even though I was going 60km in a 100km area, then they said there was a cow but there was no proof it belonged to the farmer.

"If it's not his then whose was it, his is the only farm in that area."

New Zealand law states farmers have a duty to ensure livestock are contained and they're liable for any damage caused by their wandering stock.

Hamilton said he had done the right thing and had, along with the witnesses, got immediate assistance for the injured cow and rounded up and secured other loose cattle.

He said the farmer had claimed for the costs of the cow that was shot and the broken fence.

Driver Angus Hamilton swerved to avoid one cow but hit another - now he is stuck with a $14,000 repair bill. Photo / supplied
Driver Angus Hamilton swerved to avoid one cow but hit another - now he is stuck with a $14,000 repair bill. Photo / supplied

Hamilton was baffled to receive an email from NZI stating one of the reasons payment would not be made was because there were no witnesses.

The email states: "Based on our insured's comments and the lack of any witnesses or independent evidence, we are not able to pay to assist."

The driver ahead of Hamilton wrote stating he had seen a cow on the grass verge when he went passed moments earlier.

Hamilton believes the cow was spooked by the first car and tried to cross back to the paddock.

The driver in the car behind Hamilton said he rounded up other loose stock and put them into a tanker track on the farmer's property.

"There were witnesses and they have provided statement and contact details but the investigator has not spoken to these people."

"I'm not sure how they can say the investigation is complete," Hamilton said.

A spokesman for NZI told the Herald on Sunday the matter needed to be decided by the Disputes Tribunal.

"Having studied the evidence available to us we don't agree that our insured is liable.

"Without talking about specifics due to matters of privacy, there are a number of factors to consider including information reports of the incident, that have led to our view that liability does not exist."

"We understand the distress faced by Mr Hamilton as a result of the accident and also the resulting damage to his car, and have advised that this matter could and should be decided in the Disputes Tribunal."

Hamilton said he would go to the Disputes Tribunal if he had to but was concerned about costs.

"I'm a 18-year-old apprentice and I don't have money to waste. The way I see it there wouldn't have been an accident if the cow was not on the road."

"All I want is to be able to replace my car which is now useless."

- NZ Herald

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