THE PERILS OF CAR INSURANCE – 03/12/2018

A recent article that caught my eye regarding a motorist having their car seized for not being insured to use their vehicle to commute to and from work inspired me to cover this and other aspects of car insurance that people either turn a blind eye to or simply are not aware of the consequences if they need to make a claim.

Apparently about 25% of all motorists simply have ‘Social and Domestic’ use for their car insurance policies and not ‘Commute to and from a fixed place of work’, meaning that potentially 1 in 4 motorists are not adequately insured. That’s a scary thought when you look at some of the busiest roads in the UK such as the Edinburgh City Bypass which is used by up to 100,000 vehicles every day.

The Police across the UK have recently conducted a coordinated operation to catch uninsured drivers, and it’s surprising how many vehicles are not insured either by default by the MOT expiring or simply not bothering to tax and insure it. If a vehicle does not have a current MOT in place, it is uninsured and there is no grace period.

Another common occurrence is motorists underestimating their annual mileage on policies in an attempt to keep the costs down, not realising or appreciating that this information can easily be found for free via websites such as www.cartaxcheck.co.uk which provide a snapshot of a vehicle’s tax and MOT status and history complete with annual mileages. It’s fair to say that if an insurance firm finds that you have vastly underestimated your annual mileage if / when a claim is made, they can easily refuse to pay out on any claims.

The knock-on effect of that scenario is third parties that may be involved in any claims that you have made that your insurance firm has declined, resulting in private prosecutions proceeding with the possibility of a claim being made against any assets that you hold. Given that the average whiplash claim is about £1,500 and Motor Legal Protection (“MLP”) policies cover claims up to £100,000, it’s fair to say that a ‘no win, no fee’ lawyer would have a field day dealing with such a case.

That nicely leads me on to not having Motor Legal Protection (“MLP”), which covers loss of excess and personal injuries which I covered earlier this year in a blog;

The perils of not having Motor Legal Protection (“MLP”) cover

Another thing to watch out for is the question, “Where will your vehicle be parked?” I have had to say that my vehicle is parked on the street when it’s actually parked in a designated bay in a cul-de-sac outside of my flat because the public have access and right of way to it, yet it’s on private land. Insurance firms cannot (or will not) differentiate on that, so I am probably paying a premium for something that isn’t entirely factual at all, yet if I didn’t toe the line my policy would be rendered null and void in the event of a claim.

Arson attacks can also cause problems even though you think you are covered by ‘third party, fire and theft’. If your vehicle was parked in a public car park overnight and was torched, the insurance firm could take the stance that it was not parked where it was stated on the insurance policy and contest a claim.

I had an attempted break-in on my flat on a hot summer’s night earlier this year through a small rectangle window that was ajar, although thankfully a friend was sleeping in the lounge on the night it happened. However, I had my car and house keys in the front door at the time and had they been successful in breaking in and stealing my car and belongings, my insurance policies would have been rendered invalid as there was no forced entry and I would be held culpable for contributory negligence by leaving my house and car keys easily accessible.

Finally, I read an article last week that said that up to 30% of motorists have damaged their own vehicle by using a mobile phone while driving with the average claim coming in at about £480. I see it often and on Edinburgh’s busiest roads, so it’s obviously a common occurrence which can render a driver being hit with various charges including driving without due care and attention as well as using a mobile phone while driving.

What people don’t realise is that insurance companies often refuse to insure any motorist that has been convicted of this offence, and it’s now more or less on a par with drink-driving by way of future risks that insurance companies factor in when quoting for policies.

About 30% of motorists now use dash-cams and whilst the quality of the footage is variable, it is usually good enough to use as evidence to the Police for incidents of bad driving that may be caused by using mobile phones. Whilst a dash-cam won’t capture mobile phone usage, the Police can access phone records to check around the time of any incidents.

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