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DIY flamethrower wasp nest removal tactic not reckless, insurer says

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DIY flamethrower wasp nest removal tactic not reckless, insurer says

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Wasps are an unwanted pest, and many households choose to get in pest control companies to remove them.

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Wasps are an unwanted pest, and many households choose to get in pest control companies to remove them.

OPINION: Got a wasp nest in the roof?

No problem, create yourself a mini flamethrower and burn the little blighters out.

Now, I reckon you might just pause at that sentence, and think there might be better ways to deal with a highly flammable nest of wasp-made paper, filled with soon-too-be angry stinging insects.

Wimp that I am, I would probably call in a pest control company.

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But the chap in question went ahead with his plan, accidentally setting his house on fire, resulting in a $100,000 claim to AA Insurance, which has been using it in its advertising.

As advertising, it worked well. It caught my attention.

But what I was curious about was why AA Insurance paid the claim, because I always understood that insurers looked frowningly on ill-advised antics that lead to big claims.

BRADEN FASTIER / STUFF

Vespex Wasp bait is distributed to bait stations around St Arnaud, and Lake Rotoiti.

I thought I knew a bit about the duty of “reasonable care” that policyholders have to their insurers not to do things that create losses for their insurers.

“The duty of reasonable care will be breached where the insured disregarded a significant risk, which would have been obvious to the reasonable person,” says insurance ombudsman Karen Stevens.

To decline a claim, an insurer must prove the insured’s conduct was grossly careless, grossly negligent, or reckless, she says.

Cases where insurers have turned down claims include when people have left windows open, or doors unlocked, while they were out and been burgled.

They have also included cases of people leaving keys in an unlocked car, or valuables visible on the seat, tempting thieves.

Was the chap with his improvised flamethrower reckless, or grossly careless?

Fire is sometimes a good way of dealing with a wasp’s nest, when properly supervised by emergency services.

AP

Fire is sometimes a good way of dealing with a wasp’s nest, when properly supervised by emergency services.

I went to the insurer and asked what had happened, and why it paid.

“It is unlikely the average person could know that lighting bug spray would lead to a house catching on fire,” was the reply. “The outcome was an unexpected consequence of our customer trying to get rid of a wasp nest, and so we covered the claim.”

Okay, it’s the insurer. It’s entitled to make that call.

Ironically, now you know that mini-flamethrowers can start roof fires, you also know it’s reckless to use one on a wasp nest in the roof.

I can’t help feeling an insurer might have been entitled to say the man had been reckless, leading at the very least to a complaint to the ombudsman, and maybe even the courts.

Obviously, we all have different levels of in-built caution. Me, cautious wimp. Man with match and bug spray, far less so. But what are the things most likely to result in a declined claim?

Based on ombudsman cases, and the wording of insurance policies, here are a few of the biggies.

House and contents policies: Leaving houses unlocked, or with accessible windows open, while you are out. Failing to maintain your place, leading to a claim.

Car policies: Driving recklessly, driving on balding tyres, speeding, driving while the brakes aren’t working as they should, failing to maintain your vehicle leading to a claim.

Car and contents policies: Leaving the keys in the ignition, leaving valuables in sight on the seats while it’s parked.

Travel: Leaving items unattended on beaches. Doing risky things while drunk. Actually, there are so many “exclusions” in travel policies, it’s hard to know where to begin.

Golden Rules

  • Read your insurance policies
  • Note the duties they put on you
  • Take care



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