Thursday 18 July 2019

Can insurer end cover over drink-driving?

Your questions answered

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Jonathan Hehir - Managing director of coverinaclick.ie

Q I was in an car accident one morning - after a big celebration the night before. I wasn't liable for the accident - a car which was speeding left it too late to overtake me and collided with my car as a result. A lot of damage was caused to both cars. When the Gardai arrived on the scene, they breathalysed myself and the other driver - and unfortunately, I was slightly over the alcohol limit as a result of the previous night out. My insurer is now refusing to cover me because it is saying that it does not cover drivers who are over the drink-drive limit. Can my insurer do this - even if the other driver admits full liability? Ger, Co Louth

Firstly, this is a reminder to us all that we need to be more aware of the drink driving limits and to understand that driving the morning after a night out is, quite rightly, no longer tolerated. Without knowing the full the details of the accident, it is possible that had you not been over the limit and had your full wits about you, the accident may have been avoided.

As it stands, it sounds like you and the other driver are lucky no one was injured. If it is found that you are at fault or partially at fault, your insurance company is within its rights to refuse to pay the claim. If the other driver is deemed to be at 100pc at fault, then you are entitled to claim from his or her insurance company for the damage to your car. You need to contact the other driver's insurance company and start the claims process.

The other issue is you now have a pending conviction for drink driving and you are probably facing a substantial premium increase - in which case it's more important than ever to shop around at renewal time. It's important to be aware that you must inform any potential insurers of this pending conviction.

Car insurer goes bust

Q I was in a car accident recently after swerving to avoid a pedestrian on the road. I hit another car after swerving. When I tried to contact my insurer, I learned that my insurer has just gone bust. I'm liable for the accident so what do I do here? Could I have to pay for the damage to the other car out of my own pocket? The damage bill could run to several thousand and I don't have that kind of money in the bank. John, Co Meath

This is a very complicated area as it involves liquidators, the Insurance Compensation Fund, the Motor Insurance Bureau and possibly a foreign insurance compensation fund. As we have seen with the handling of Setanta Insurance claims (another insurer who went into liquidation in recent years), these decisions tend to be dealt with by the courts.

In most cases, you will be amongst many other drivers in the same situation, and the claims will be dealt with in a block, rather than you having to try to manage the situation yourself. Precedence would suggest that the person who you hit will be paid for the damage to their vehicle, and for any personal injury compensation (if any) that they are entitled too. In the most recent case of Setanta's liquidation, claimants were paid out of the Irish Compensation Fund. However, it will depend on your insurer - if your insurer operates across multiple EU countries, it may be incumbent on the country where the insurer is regulated to pay the claims.

Whilst I am not ruling the possibility of you being paid for the damage to your own car (as the liquidator or the compensation fund may have a provision to do so), it is, unfortunately, less likely.

If you receive any correspondence from the third party, or any agent acting on their behalf, you should forward this to your broker immediately. I would advise you not to return any contact directly with the third party, without having first spoken to your broker.

Home insurance conundrum

Q My partner and I bought a flat in a rural Co Limerick village in 2012. The unit was part of a mixed estate - including properties for families, as well as apartments. A number of the units were part of a management company set up by the builder. We were required to pay an annual fee to the builder, which was to cover our portion of the blanket insurance policy. Several years later, we found that the management company was struck off (due to insolvency). Furthermore, we were unable to get our own house insurance because our unit was part of the management company. So, we're in no man's land. Is there any way to get our own home insurance for the flat? Danny, Co Clare

The easiest way to reinstate your home insurance is for you to form a residence association and appoint a property management company.

Whichever property management company you choose will - or should - have dealt with similar situations previously and it will know exactly what to do to get everything back on track - including securing cover for the development.

As is the usual course of things, the property management company will first get a price from a broker to cover the entire estate, and then it will apportion the amounts due by each property owner. This is not the easiest task as it needs everyone in the estate to be pulling in the same direction, but it has been done by plenty of other estates and it, most likely, will be the only way you will get the building insured.

In the meantime, you are free to arrange you own contents insurance cover which I would advise you to do immediately if you have not done so already. In terms of costs, contents insurance for an apartment or townhouse should come in somewhere around €100 for €25,000 cover.

Q I ran over a dog recently. I was driving into a public car park. The dog ran under my car as I was driving. The dog wasn't on a leash. I stopped when I realised what had happened, but it was too late - and the dog was in a bad way. The owner of the dog was very upset and accused me of reckless driving (which I completely dispute). The owner now wants to make a claim on my car insurance to cover the cost of the vet's bills - as his dog had to be put down. Am I liable here - and if so, would my car insurance cover the vet's bills? I don't feel like I've done anything wrong here. I didn't even see the dog before it ran under my car. Geraldine, Dublin

Firstly, I would advise you to contact your insurance broker or insurance company to inform them of the incident - it will be easier for your broker or insurer to establish whether or not you are liable for this incident.

You do not have to go ahead with a claim even if your insurer determines you to be liable - so you would still be left with the option of paying this yourself. However, based on what you have set out, I don't believe you can be held negligent, unless you were driving at an excessive speed. I would suggest asking management in the car park for any CCTV it may have, as this could ultimately prove that the incident was unavoidable.

It is also worth noting that under dog control law, dogs must be accompanied by and under the effective control of their owner or another responsible person if it is outside the owner's home or premises.

Jonathan Hehir is managing director of insuremyhouse.ie, insuremycars.ie and coverinaclick.ie

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