Flood damage is quite common in a few places in India including metro cities like Mumbai and Chennai. The owner of an Audi Q7 SUV suffered a huge loss after his vehicle got caught in a flood in Hyderabad 7 years ago and he spent Rs 20 lakh on the repairs of the vehicle. After filing a case and fighting a court battle for seven years, the Telangana State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (TSCDRC) has directed the insurance firm to pay Rs 17.54 lakh with an additional 7% interest.
The vehicle was heavily damaged in the 2013 floods. However, the insurance company offered only Rs 53,000 payout, which is much less than the amount the owner spent to get his vehicle fixed. The court says that Bharti Axa General Insurance Company Ltd is at fault for refusing to help the car owner.
The owner of the Q7 – Ch. Sudhakar Raju paid Rs 1.12 lakh in insurance premium to the company and the bench found that the insurer reached the wrong conclusions. Raju, who is a resident of Banjara Hills got his Audi repaired by himself.
The bench of Justice MSK Jaiswal as president and Meena Ramanathan as the member said in the judgement as per TOI,
“Merely because the car got stuck in rain or drain water on the main road, we cannot expect the person sitting at the steering wheel not to make any attempt to start the car. The natural human instinct is to make an attempt to restart the car”
Owner started the vehicle after hydrolock
Raju bought the Audi Q7 3.0 TDI luxury SUV in 2012 by paying Rs 60 lakh and took an insurance policy as well. However, after 10 months of ownership, the vehicle got caught in a traffic jam caused by a heavy downpour. Within 10 minutes, the roads were blocked and the vehicular movement got restricted leaving numerous motorists stranded on the road. Flood water hydrolocked the engine and the vehicle shut down on its own. The owner tried starting the car but it did not start. They later shifted the vehicle to the Audi workshop for repair.
The insurance surveyor assessed the car and said that the vehicle could not move due to the hydrostatic loss. The insurance company said that this kind of damage is not covered by the insurance and hence refused to compensate for the loss. The insurance company also argued that if the vehicle was driven or an attempt was made to drive the car without affecting the required repairs, then the burden would lie on the car owner.
The company argued by stating that they will not pay in such a situation and the surveyor appointed by the company gave a report saying that the engine cannot be damaged so easily. That is how they concluded that the owner is at fault while handling the situation. They even said that the owner tried to start the vehicle after the vehicle was shut due to the hydrostatic lock. This worsened the engine’s condition and it got heavily damaged. We are not sure if the insurer will challenge the decision at a higher court.