Mother-of-four Samantha Melville has been hit with a $6 million insurance bill nine years after a car crash that altered her life, with only 21 days to pay the bill.
Berkshire Hathaway claimed Mrs Melville’s car was unroadworthy when it hit a tree in 2012 during a flash hail storm.
“I got a letter from Berkshire Hathaway that said I need to pay $6.3 million in 21 days,” Mrs Melville told A Current Affair.
On the night of June 29, 2012, the then 23-year-old was driving with a former friend to work when she lost control in a severe storm and crashed into a tree in country South Australia.
“It was my brother’s car and it was registered,” she said.
Mrs Melville and her passenger were both seriously injured.
“I have a brain injury, I had a shattered pelvis, broke my back, the bottom bits of my spine, I’m deaf in my left ear,” she said.
After she got out of the hospital, she received a $400 fine and was charged with driving without due care.
“The vehicle was examined by MCIU mechanics and found to have both rear tyres below the acceptable standard of tread which, when combined with the prevalent weather conditions, contributed to the collision,” the police report said.
After receiving a letter from Allianz Australia – who was the motor accident commission’s claims manager at the time – Mrs Melville called Allianz and said she was told “‘don’t worry about it because it’s all covered under motor accident commission’”.
“They assured me that it was all done and there would be no further proceedings or anything,” Mrs Melville said.
Nine years later, Mrs Melville received a letter from insurer Berkshire Hathaway, who had taken over the claim, saying: “We refer to our previous letter dated 10 February 2014, a copy of which is enclosed”.
The company demanded $6,312,399.83, but Mrs Melville became suspicious after considering she had not received a phone call, and that the letter came without a signature or name.
“So I rang police officers and done all of that and they all told me it was a scam and I reported it to Scamwatch and Berkshire Hathaway’s not very happy that I did that,” she said.
“I’ve asked [Berkshire Hathaway] for all of the evidence of the car being unworthy and they’ve said they need to seek legal advice.”
Among the fees included in the bill are $55,000 in surveillance, $9544 for Factual Investigations, and almost $1 million in legal fees for a court case she didn’t know was occurring.
Lawyer Nick Xenophon has taken on her case for free.
“Obviously there was a significant pay out for the other person who was injured, I understand that, what I don’t understand is why they are pursuing her because it was an accident. This is why you have compulsory third party insurance,” he said.
“The risk here is if this case becomes a precedent it sends a chilling message to anyone who’s on the road who’s involved in an accident that they could be chased by the compulsory third party insurer for damages.”
The US company, owned by Warren Buffet, only recently bought into Australia’s car insurance industry.
Mrs Melville has been asked to pay by May 26, but she has no idea what will happen after that.
Image credit: A Current Affair
This article originally appeared on Over60.