How AMI’s Colin Hill went the extra mile to help an accident victim

Helen Bitschkat from Havelock North had been a long-term customer of AMI when she had a “horrendous” car accident.

“I was tootling along on a summer’s day when I saw a truck ahead with a black plume of smoke billowing out. I slowed down just in time to see a large tyre hurtling towards me,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘Oh, oh, oh’ and turned my car to the left to dodge the tyre.

“It passed over me but then I heard a dull sound and my windscreen was completely obliterated with some sort of liquid. I hit the brakes. No brakes. I put the wipers on. No wipers. I put it in neutral. No gears.”

In a frightening turn of events, an effluent pipe had flown off the livestock transporter truck, dislodging a tyre before becoming embedded in the radiator of Helen’s one-year-old Suzuki Swift, disabling both the brakes and the steering, and spewing animal effluent all over the windscreen. “Luckily, my car slowed of its own accord and came to a stop, half on, half off the road.”

In shock, Helen got out. Not seriously damaged, the truck drove off but no-one stopped to help her. She rang a breakdown service who put her through to AMI and she was told that someone would come out straight away.

A tow truck arrived within 15 minutes, a huge relief as the accident had taken place in a 100kmh zone on a busy road and Helen was worried that her car would be hit by another vehicle.

“I immediately had a sense that everything was being taken care of and I didn’t need to panic or worry,” she says.

The next day she received a call from AMI Claim Consultant Colin Hill with the unfortunate news that she would need to pay her $400 excess because she couldn’t identify the truck. It had all happened too quickly to get a plate number or even a description.

“I said, ‘That’s the least of my worries. My car’s got a pipe sticking out of it.’”

Colin arranged for the car to be sent to a local panelbeater who told Helen she was lucky to be alive. If the pipe, with its razor-sharp jagged end, had come through the windscreen, it could have killed her.

“AMI replaced the bonnet and the radiator. When it was finished, you’d never have known the car had been damaged.”

But what happened next astonished Helen, a 58-year-old clerk in a Napier law firm. Recognising that the accident was not Helen’s fault, Colin made a special effort to track down the truck so she didn’t have to pay the excess. He asked a friend who managed a business near the accident site if he could view their CCTV footage. From that, he identified the truck and contacted the company responsible.

“Colin rang me and said, ‘Good news. You don’t have to pay your excess. We’ve located the truck.’ I said, ‘You’re kidding me!’ To my mind, Colin went above and beyond. Nothing was too much bother and he was never patronising, which you can sometimes get at my age. He could tell that I was quite shaken – it’s the biggest accident I’ve ever had – and he had such a calming manner. I was in disbelief that he’d gone the extra mile to find the truck driver.”

Helen had lost her house in the Christchurch earthquakes so she was already aware how incredibly kind people can be in times of strife, but she was still impressed by Colin’s generosity of spirit.

“Colin really listened to me and that’s rare these days. He reassured me throughout. I’m very grateful to him.”

To thank Colin, she took him a box of chocolates. He put them in the staff room for everyone to enjoy.