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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 Bonus?

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 value?

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 following:
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 'free' warranty.
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.

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Q : I want to keep the salvage. How can I do this?

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 salvage companies.

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. Please explain!

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 it.

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

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