There's nothing worse than finding yourself caught out by insurance small print when you need to make a claim.
So here we highlight the areas of car insurance cover where disputes most commonly arise, so you can ensure your insurance will meet your expectations.
The value of your car that you give when you buy your insurance will very likely not be what you receive if you car is written off. The value of cars goes down over time and with use, often much more quickly than imagined.
Insurance companies will only pay you the current 'fair market value' of your car at the time of an accident.
This particularly affects newer cars, which depreciate more quickly. Insurers will often offer to replace a new car with another brand new one if the car is written off within a short period after its purchase. This is because the large drop in value of a car immediately after it is purchased would leave owners heavily out of pocket if the car was written off.
However, this normally only applies within one year of purchase, yet car values continue to drop most rapidly within the first three years of being new.
Due to the number of disputes over what cars are worth, insurers have started finding those who've had their cars written off a matching one, rather than pay out a market value.
Problems can also be caused if a new car is bought using finance and written off after an accident. It can be the case that the amount owing on the finance is a significant amount more than the value of the car, especially if a number of years have passed.
will also not be covered by most insurance policies - additional 'gap insurance'
to cover the difference is recommended.
Broken windows may be covered, but the amount an insurer will pay out for personal possessions is often subject to a very low maximum limit regardless of the value of the items stolen.
Factor in the excess you will have to pay towards any theft claim, what you will get in compensation will often be so low as to barely cover the cost of a new coat, nevermind if you lose a bag with several items in that you have to replace. Or certainly not enough to cover any electrical gadget. It would often not even be worth claiming and harming your record, so effectively you will have no cover against such thefts at all.
Insurers say that people should know not to leave tempting items on view in their car. However, no matter how careful we are, everyone slips up and can be unlucky.
If you're particularly worried about this, check the policy's payout limit on cover for personal possessions or audio/visual equipment and, if appropriate, ask your insurer why they provide such feeble cover.
Many would class that as theft, but your insurance company may take the view that you failed in your duty to protect your car.
the policy small-print on 'theft by deception' if you're concerned about this,
and also see our advice on taking payment when selling
However, some people who have been involved in an accident that was not their fault have been dismayed to find when they come to renew that they have been penalised.
This is down to a controversial agreement between insurance companies called knock-for-knock. It means that, where establishing fault will involve lengthy dispute, insurers pay for the claims of their own customers rather than pursue payment from another insurer.
While this cuts down on paperwork and legal action, meaning quicker payouts for claims, it also means the insurance record of the innocent party in an accident can be harmed. Higher premiums, or a loss of no claims discount, can result, even if you weren't at fault.
Worse, this effect may not be noticed until time comes to renew, often months after the incident and an appropriate time to do anything about it.
However, such 'efficiency' agreements between insurers do not affect the ability of the innocent party in an accident to take legal action against the person at fault to recover any financial loss resulting from their own insurance record being harmed.
So if you are involved in an accident that isn't your fault, be sure to check whether your insurance company has had to pay anything out at all as a result. If they have, you will need to find out how badly that will affect your record and how much that will cost you - then try to recover the money through legal action against the person at fault for the accident. Though if the insurer gave up on this in the first place, your chances are probably not great.
This problem highlights the vital importance of immediately getting the contact details of anyone who witnessed the accident if you feel it wasn't your fault.
More importantly, be sure to tell your insurance company if anything relevant to your car, driving record or personal details changes while the insurance is valid.
Should you need to claim on your insurance, if your insurance company finds that something is different about your car or personal circumstances than they were told when they provided the insurance, they could declare your policy void and pay you nothing.
Apart from the obvious, like your car having been modified or you having moved address, this could also include whether you have developed any relevant medical conditions or have been prescribed any permanent medication.
Some insurance companies will charge a fee for changing the details relevant to a policy, which can be up to £25. So if you're likely to move house or change your car in the next year, use our unique Compare-a-Quote form to record this info when shopping around for the best deal. It might be worth going with a slightly higher premium if the 'admin' fee for later making those changes to your policy will be lower.
The same often applies if you have left any doors unlocked or windows open, or if you have not activated any security device that you have declared to the insurer in order to reduce the cost of your cover.
Insurers generally take the view that you have a certain basic responsibility to protect your car, and that leaving keys in or around it is not carrying out that responsibility.
- if your car is confiscated or destroyed by order of any government or local authority;
- if your car is damaged or destroyed while in the custody of a business for servicing or repair;
- if damage occurs while your car is being used on operational parts of an airport or airfield;
- if the insurer feels the car has not been kept in an 'efficient and roadworthy' condition.
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