Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Circling vultures

A few months back, I was involved in a low speed accident causing minor damage to the two respective cars. The other driver admitted liability & his insurers were quick to offer to sort out my repairs, loan car etc. Having previously worked for an insurance underwriter, I was aware that getting in touch with the other party quickly is essential in order to mitigate costs as otherwise they are likely to be seduced by attractive offers by the motor trade equivalent of ambulance chasing lawyers. What I hadn’t appreciated, however, was that the phenomenon is actually part and parcel of the process.

My own broker set the ball rolling by advising that as I had legal cover as part of the policy, the retained solicitors would contact me to ensure my inconvenience was minimal. Their forms emphasised the aspects of injury & included diagrams to explain the consequences of whiplash and how I might not actually realise that I had it. On subsequent phone calls, I could detect subtle vibes of disappointment when I repeatedly emphasised that I wasn’t injured, the car was roadworthy and the damage was trivial.

Meanwhile, I tried to contact the third party department of the other insurer who had left a phone message. I tried several times on the Friday evening and over the weekend but although their phone system constantly advised that all of their agents were busy and that my call was important to them, I never actually managed to talk to anyone. When a letter turned up from them during the week, it became obvious why, the department only worked regular office hours, a fact their phone system was unable to grasp. It still took a couple of goes to actually get hold of someone and they advised a suitable assessor who would be contacting me as a matter of course but they didn’t actually follow through and when I contacted them it was going to be at least another week or so before they could take a look at the damage. In the meantime, my own broker got in touch and recommended a garage that was happy to do the assessment later that day on the way home.

I was originally keen to take up the other Insurance Company offer but on reflection, although their principle was right, their practice left something to be desired and I went down the path of least resistance via my own broker.

All went well for the actual repair and the replacement vehicle was no problem at all other than being somewhat shorter but an inch or two higher than my regular car. I normally have to park my car well in to my garage and I was lulled into a false sense of security by the clearance at the back so not being quite as diligent on one occasion was horrified to hear an almighty clang on closing the garage door; the internal handle had clipped the lip of the tailgate, causing a small but deep dint, removing the paintwork and derailing the garage door.

I immediately informed the car hire Company and thanked me for being forthcoming and advised that the worst-case sum would be the excess. So far, touch wood; they have not followed through so I may have been let off. (Cue letter from hire Company with demands for excess…)

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