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How insurers can pull one over on you!

It is stated explicitly in every single car insurance proposal form that every detail given by the proposer has to be absolutely, 100% accurate. Despite this, inaccuracies do crop up. Do you know exactly how many miles you will drive next year? I certainly don't. Many of us have no real memory for dates, and if we have had accidents or driving convictions in the past, we're not completely certain just how long ago it was; and we cannot remember whether were entitled to 5 years no claims discount or six! If we ignore honest errors, there are quite a few dishonest ones as well. A favourite trick is for young people to exaggerate their age, knowing full well that the younger they are the more they will pay; and many people who habitually park their cars on the road outside their houses claim that they are in fact parked on a drive or even in a garage, because they know that the premium will be slightly less. No problem, the insurance company happily accepts the premium and these little errors or white lies are ignored or forgotten about; until there is a claim. At this stage the insurance company will probably aks to see your driving licence; this contains a code which revealed your date of birth, and consequently your exact age; and they look at your driving record on a central database; and in extreme cases they send out an investigator to interview you and check up on your answers. If there are any anomalies between what you have written on your proposal form and what they find out, your chances of seeing the claim accepted can be very remote! So, if you do not make a claim they happily bank your money; if you do make one they still bank it. Heads they win, tails you lose.

Even if you had told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth you could still find your claim refused because you had not informed them of what they call 'material facts'. If a lodger who lived with you had received a conviction for shoplifting, if your son who also lived at your address had been bankrupted for running up credit card debts, if neighbours from hell had threatened to burn your house down, and you didn't tell the insurance company, they would have grounds for contesting your claim.

You would be expected to take all reasonable steps to protect your car. If you left the keys on the dressing table of your house, in front of a window, and a thief broke the window, took your keys and used them to steal your car they could well say that it was your own fault, and hard luck, chum. If you habitually parked in the street in which you knew there were vandals operating regularly, don't be surprised if the insurers refuse to pay for your torched car. Leave it unlocked on the garage forecourt after you fill the tank and whilst you go to pay the bill, and if someone jumps in and drives it away you may well have to whistle for your money.

And we haven't even touched upon the huge fees that some of them charge just to alter the details they have on record for you, if you change your job, your address, your marital status (and don't even think about not telling them, that can invalidate your cover too), or the even bigger charges that can be levied if you want to change your car, or even cancel the policy.

I'm not for a moment suggesting that insurance companies are in any way dishonest, an insurance policy is a legally binding contract between yourself and the company and you can generally rely upon them keeping to the letter of it. However, there are many holes in every contract, and most insurers know how to wriggle through them if they decide to do so. The moral of this tale; read the policy document before you hand over any money and make sure you understand it; if there are parts you do not understand ask for written clarification. If necessary, take out a short term insurance policy to cover you for a few days whilst you get this clarification, and if you are in any doubt whatsoever get proper professional advice. A failed claim may cost the sort of money that could financially destroy you.

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