It was a shock when we learned that my mother-in-law had terminal cancer and was not expected to live for much longer. Could be a few days or a few weeks the doctors said.
It got even worse when a few days later, as my wife was about to come home from the hospital in Norwich, someone backed into her rear bumper. Not too much damage – no one hurt – annoying, but as the car was still drivable, no real problem.
The priority was mum, but the insurance company were informed. They were all very nice and as it was a “no fault” claim suggested we went through a company that deals with ‘no fault’ claims as we could get a much better hire car than the one we were insured for.
We contacted the company and all went well. They were very obliging and agreed to have the hire car delivered the day before our car was taken to the garage so that my wife didn’t have to miss a day at the hospital.
Next day I went and picked up the hire car, a Ford Focus estate, and drove it home. The next day my wife would have a nice car to do the 200 mile round trip and our Mazda 6 would go in to be repaired.
Imagine how I felt when, later on, my wife phoned – she was in a terrible state – somebody else has driven into the back of her whilst she was stationary on the slip road between the A12 and the A14.
Again there was no injury and the ‘bump’ had only compounded the damage done by the first car. The Mazda was still drivable and my wife was OK, after the initial shock.
The funny thing was, both the cars who had bumped into her were insured by the same insurance company.
When she got home we phoned our insurers to give them the bad news.
Then ALL HELL LET LOOSE.
We were told that, as it was now a complex claim, The company that was dealing with it could no longer do it. The hire car firm were the same and the car would have to be returned immediately. We would have to wait until will got a standard car from our insurance company. To top it all we were informed that our Mazda was no longer drivable as the side panel was sticking out about half an inch. In short we were treated as if it was our fault.
Despite my protestations that we couldn’t be without a car as my wife had to be in Norfolk to be with her mother at 9am in the morning, it seemed to be getting me nowhere. As we approached the end of a nearly two hour phone call I managed to get agreement that she could keep the hire car for the morning and I would sort things out with the hire car firm. Why did it have to take pleading, arguing, me nearly loosing my rag, for this sort of concession to be made?
In the morning my wife went off to Norfolk and I started the inevitable phone calls. I knew it was going to be hard but didn’t realise just how hard. This is where things get difficult.
My first priority was to get a decent car for my wife to drive each day. I wasn’t happy with the extra stress it would have caused her to have to drive 200 miles in a small little run-about, which is all we were entitled to have on our insurance.
My first call was to the hire car firm. I explained the situation to them. They were very understanding and sympathetic and agreed that we could keep the Ford Focus and that I would personally pay for the car if the insurance companies wouldn’t. I still don’t understand why, as both claims were going to be “no fault” claims and from the same insurance company they could not just let us keep it.
My second call was to our insurers, who passed me on to my real insurers. Of course, this is why things are so difficult. Our company are only brokers and can only do what they are told to do. It’s the underwriters who make the decisions.
So could it be that as I was now going to talk to the organ grinder and not the monkey, maybe I could get things sorted?
A very nice man from the underwriters explained the situation to me. Now there were two claims on the same car there could be disputes as to who pays what etc. It could end up in court. But, hang on I said, both cars are insured by the same company. Are they going to take themselves to court?
Basically I got nowhere. The next day I would receive a Nisan Micra and our car would go into the garage to be fixed. I would have to pay for the Ford Focus and that’s that. Oh and by the way we’re sorry about your mother-in-law
The next day I drove to town in the Nisan Micra and signed the agreement with the car hire firm, who again were very nice and helpful and gave me a good price for the car.
The next phone call came from the garage who were pleased to inform me that they could not discriminate between the two accidents and would be treating it as only one. Therefore I would only have to pay one excess of £250 and not the full £500. WHAT!
So I’m back on the phone to the underwriters again. It can only be my training as a teacher of troubled children that means I can keep my temper.
“What do you mean I have to pay the excess” I said, nearly calmly.
“These are two ‘no fault’ accidents. I shouldn’t have to pay the excess”.
“But it’s a complex claim etc…….”, comes the reply.
“I don’t give an organ grinder’s monkey if it’s complex case or not”, I said, less calmly.
“We’ll phone you back”.
Fifteen minutes later I get the phone call. I don’t have to pay the excess.
So at last it’s sorted. But why have I had to spend what is now very nearly three hours on the phone to get it sorted.
How wrong can you be again?
Another day passes and I get a phone call from the brokers and I’m reminded about that new policy renewal we took out last week. Well it’s been cancelled. The new underwriter for that policy has refused to take us because we have two ‘at fault’ cases running at the moment. However they can sort us out with a new policy with another company but, you’ve guessed it, it’s nearly three times the price. Up from £246 to £688. We can, of course, claim back some money once they have been agreed as being ‘no fault’, however there is no guarantee that it will be the same price as the one that has been cancelled.
At this point all my training went out of the window and I lost it.
Apparently this would be the case with any insurance firm but until both claims have been settled they are considered to be ‘at fault’ claims and we have no choice.
The post arrives at the door and there’s a letter from our brokers informing me that, as it was a ‘no fault’ claim they have made arrangements with the garage to waiver the policy excess.
So I’m back on the phone to ask how I can have a letter in black and white that tells me it’s a ‘no fault’ claim and yet it is being treated as an ‘at fault’ claim. The answer I got was well it is a ‘no fault’ claim but it remains an ‘at fault’ claim until it is settled by the insurance companies.
I finished the phone call with a very bad attitude and a do whatever you have to do answer. I did apologise to the lady, as it wasn’t her fault, but couldn’t bring myself to be civil. In the end we shall be out-of-pocket. By how much, I don’t yet know.
However, I am not yet defeated. Two minutes later I was on the phone to the Financial Ombudsman and I have lodged a formal complaint. I’m not sure if it will get me anywhere, but I’m not giving up yet. Next step is the TV and see if Dom can sort it out.
Why, when there’s an 87 year old lady not long for this world and we could do without any extra stress, should two ‘no fault’ claims with the same insurance company give them the the right to treat us as if it’s our fault and penalise us for it.
There must surely be a way that they can deal with situations that are uncommon and with extenuating circumstances better than this intransigent and uncompromising way.
There are two massive ironies attached to this. The first is repeatedly being put on hold and listening to the Debussy 1st Arabesque (a piece of music I used to like) interspersed with a message saying “Rest assured that when you have a problem we are here to help you”! To which my answer starts with a ‘B’ and ends with ‘ollicks’.
The second irony is that if my wife, after being hit for the second time, had acted dishonestly and told the chap it was his lucky day and to forget it, none of this trouble would have happened.
Didn’t you know, honesty always pays?
p.s. I shall await the outcome from the Ombudsman and if I’m not happy be repeating this blog with the relevant company names put in.