Car Insurance FAQs (T)
Q : Perhaps you can help me with a specific
theft claim I am dealing with at present. Do you know of any
recent motor theft cases where the keys were left in the
vehicle and the claim was won by the claimant? Also what
constitutes unattendence of a vehicle - what is the distance
from the vehicle where it is considered to be unattended? I
would really appreciate any cases you can throw up and advice
you may have.
A : Richard Leighton Haywood V Norwich Union
Insurance (1999). This one is bad news. Originally, the Court
ruled in favour of the claimant but it went to the Court of
Appeal in 2001. They held that the clauses were clear and that
the claimant had breached the policy wording about leaving the
car unattended etc. My advice is NEVER EVER leave your car
unattended, unlocked and with the keys in it! Previously, an
insured failed to take reasonable care only if he was reckless,
and not if he was merely negligent (Sofy v Prudential Assurance
Co Ltd (1993) In my view, each case will be looked at on its
merits. You need first to check out the precise wording in the
policy. This one had a specific exclusion relating to leaving
keys in the vehicle. Some do not and you might only have to
battle a 'reasonable steps to safeguard' condition. Then you
have to look at the facts of the case, where did he leave the
vehicle (e.g. on his driveway? on a public road? in a petrol
station?) How far away was the insured? Did he have his back
turned or was he inside a building? How long had he left it?
Was the engine running? Thus you might manage to succeed if he
had just stopped at a post box. But if your client had left it
for some minutes on a public road, unattended, unlocked and
with keys in ignition, then I doubt you will overcome the
policy conditions and exclusions.
Q : My car has been stolen, Will it affect my
A : This depends on three factors. One, do you
have a 'protected' bonus? If yes, you are okay provided you
make no more claims. Two, is the thief caught and does he have
the means to pay for your car? Probably Not! Three, is your car
found undamaged - hence no need to claim? REMEMBER - your bonus
is a 'NO CLAIM BONUS', not a no blame bonus. In general if you
make a claim and your insurer pays out, it is recorded on your
record as a claim. In the vast majority of theft cases, the
claim will affect your bonus.
Total Loss - there are many questions
about total loss claims and salvage
Q : My car was a total loss, can I reclaim part
of my premium? I do not intend to replace it.
A : The answer is NO. When your insurer pays
out your total loss claim they have discharged their
contractual obligation to you. The phrase they might use is
that your policy has 'discharged by performance' Basically your
side of the deal is you pay the full annual premium, their side
of the deal is to provide you with the protection specified in
the contract. They have kept to their part of the deal. To keep
to yours, you must pay the full annual premium.
Q : What happens if you disagree with their
A : This is probably the single most common
problem with a total loss claim. Do insurers quote a lower
value expecting to be negotiated upwards? They certainly used
to. Some might still do so. But many insurers now give you the
value that they genuinely think is correct for your car and do
not expect to negotiate further. If you don't agree their value
you will have to come up with some pretty convincing evidence
to prove their engineer is wrong. I suggest you consider the
1) Buy a guide in a shop (there are usually one or two in the
stationers) and look up the quoted pries for your car. Make
sure you look up the right model! These figures will be close
to those available to the insurers engineer.
2) Check out the ads in your local papers and car magazines.
See what similar cars are being advertise for.
3) Check out your local dealers and see what they claim to be
selling cars like yours for.
4) You might have to consider appointing your own independent
engineer to value the vehicle.
5) Talk to your insurers (without losing your 'cool'). Ask them
to justify their value and how they calculated it. Then use
your evidence to throw doubt on their value and justify your
own value. REMEMBER - car dealers put excessive prices on the
windscreens of the vehicles they have on their forecourt. This
gives them some room for negotiation with both the price of the
car they sell and the trade in, if any. So don't start with an
inflated opinion of your own cars worth!! And remember, your
insurers will only pay the market value of the car, not all the
extras your local dealer will throw in such as the cost of the
If you are still not happy with any revised value given to you,
you can complain to your insurers General Manager or submit
your complaint through your insurers complaints procedure. With
most insurers this will be the Insurance Ombudsman Bureau. The
insurers will weigh up the cost to them of a case being
reviewed externally against the disputed values. The chances
are that, unless you are being unreasonable, you will win. Any
review will again look at the 'book values' so don't expect to
receive more than the guides quote.
Q : I kept the vehicle documents in the glove
box - can you deal with the claim without them?
A : You must obtain duplicates. The V5
(registration document) can be obtained from the D.V.L.A. Forms
are at your post office. The garage who did your MOT can supply
a duplicate upon request. Needless to say there will be a
charge for these. Without a V5 your insurer will not settle
your claim. Without a current, valid, MOT, your insurers will
still settle but will reduce your value. Would you buy a car
over 3 years old that had no MOT and expect to pay the full
price for it? Come on! Of course you wouldn't - so don't ask
your insurer to. What if they won't pay you more than the
'insured value'? When you took your policy out, your insurer
will have asked you for the value of your car. With the vast
majority of cars that figure will not have influenced your
premium. But it does influence the value you might receive for
a total loss or theft claim. If you have undervalued your car
so that the 'insured value' is less than the true value, your
insurers will only pay out the 'insured value'. My advice, if
they do this, and provided the difference is not that great,
kick up some fuss - assertively but gently. If you can show
that the notified value was an error either by them or by you;
there was no attempt to deceive them and that they have not
been prejudiced in anyway by this 'nondisclosure' the chances
are they will relent. If they don't, you have learnt a lesson
and you should change insurer to a more customer friendly one.
Of course, if you are insured via an insurance broker then you
can ask your broker to do all this for you. It is one of the
advantages of having a broker - when you have a dispute with
your insurer, they will usually take your side and can pull
favours for you that you can't pull when you insure with one of
the direct insurers.
Q : I want to keep the salvage. How can I do
A : My advice is DON'T. Most insurers are very
reluctant to do this these days. You will cause yourself a lot
of unnecessary hassle and difficulty. If you do so, what will
you do with it? Will you repair it yourself or get a friend to
make a 'dogs dinner' of repairing it with parts from a scrap
dealer? What will you gain? I would suggest a car that has seen
some serious 'action' and probably a bodged up repair on the
cheap? Is your life that cheap? Where the damage to the car is
such that it does not fall into the 'break it up' categories of
salvage, Insurers will assume you to settle the claim by way of
cash with the salvage, will then get a friend or local garage
to fix it up on the cheap and pocket the difference as profit.
They do not like their customers trying to make a profit out of
them! Further, there has been a lot of criticism in the past by
the consumer media of the insurance industry for letting
seriously damaged cars back on the road. Insurers only deal
with registered salvage dealers and some now have their own
Q : What if my car is old, I am on a pension
and can't afford to buy another one?
A : In theory the value you receive from your
insurer should be enough for you to find a car of the same
make, model, mileage, condition for the money they pay you. You
and I know that, in practice, this does not always work out. I
have had conversations with insurance motor engineers where
they have stated quite openly that they like to get the old
cars off the road. So when looking at the cost of repairs V
value of the car, they take into account new parts at full
manufactures list price and labour rates from the main
dealerships. EXPENSIVE. I propose two possible solutions.
No 1: Go to a local reputable garage and ask them to quote a
'contract repair' figure using non-standard parts (e.g.
Halfords brand) or decent second hand parts. This price might
well make it a viable repair and your insurer can then be
persuaded to authorise this contract repair for you. A contract
repair is where the garage agree to repair a car for a fixed
sum, say £1000, rather than repair it based on an agreed labour
charge plus parts at list price and VAT. e.g. £250 labour. The
parts and labour and VAT are all included in the £1000.
No 2: is to pay the extra yourself if the difference between
the total loss value and the repair is not that great. This
second option will cost you some money but at least you will
retain your car, properly repaired, and perhaps at less cost to
you than buying a newer car.
Q : My car was 'written off', you kept the
salvage and the other day I saw it drive passed my window.
A : Insurers are a business that want to make a
profit. To do so they need to keep a check on the cost of
claims settlements. Thus, even with the criticism of the
consumer media they allow their salvage dealers to pass cars on
for repair and resale. They get a better deal on the sale of
the salvage. Whilst a few brave insurers have declared they
will break all salvage with so many motor insurers in the
market, this will not become standard practice without
legislation, strictly enforced code of conduct from the ABI, or
a means by which the insurer sees this option as being better
value in some way to them. Until then, you can expect this to
happen from time to time and there is nothing you can do about
Q : You kept my salvage, against my will when
you settled my claim the other week. I have now received a
notice of a parking fine not paid. What do I do?
A : This follows on from above, where the
salvage has been repaired and the car has found its way on to
the road again. Fortunately, it does not arise very often! On
the back of the form you receive, there are some fields you can
fill in to say that the car is no longer yours, that it has
been sold on to your insurers. Fill this form in and return it.
Keep a copy. You might even persuade your insurers to fill it
in for you!
"The pedestrian ran for the
pavement, but I got him"
|Extracts taken from actual claim
forms submitted to
a number of UK car insurance companies
Car Insurance FAQs (U-Z)