Tuesday 18 December 2018

Beware the small print: You may not be insured to drive that car

Dorothea Dowling
Dorothea Dowling

Imagine the scenario. You and your partner have essentially identical risk profiles from a motor insurance perspective.

You have comprehensive cover on a vehicle which both of you use and the policy is in your name with your partner as a named driver.

One morning your partner needs to get to an important meeting, but the car won't start.

Your friendly neighbours, who happen to be a couple with an identical insurance profile to both of you, offer you the use of their vehicle.

If anyone in this scenario turns their mind to the question of insurance at all, you might think you have nothing to worry about in the circumstances.

You might reason that since you have 'driving other cars' as an extension on the policy, your partner has valid insurance to drive the borrowed car.

You may even think that because you have comprehensive insurance, any damage caused to the borrowed car will also be covered.

Or then again, you might think that because there is a valid insurance disc on the borrowed car, which you did carefully check, that your partner's driving will be covered by the policy effected by your neighbours.

Sorry to say, but you could be wrong on all counts.

The consequences of that might be that the driver is prosecuted for no insurance.

They could also be held personally liable for any damage and/or injuries caused as a result of the negligent use of the borrowed vehicle.

How can that be fair? There are four people involved here who have all made their contribution to the insurance pool for two identical vehicles, only one of which is in use on this particular day, yet the driver might be classified as uninsured?

Well, I'm afraid fairness does not come into it.

Everything rests on the precise wording of your insurance documents.

Before 'driving other cars' puts you off the road, it could be a good idea to take out your motor insurance certificate and read it carefully.

Look at the section entitled 'drivers, or classes of drivers, whose driving is covered'. That will refer you to codes on the reverse side of the certificate and may also state the identity of any named drivers. In my case, the drivers covered are myself and my husband.

Then look at the section entitled 'vehicles, or classes of vehicles, the use of which is covered'. That will again refer to codes on the reverse side of the certificate and will also show the registration number of your vehicle.

The relevant code in my case also includes 'any other private motor car (excluding vans, minibuses and commercial vehicles) being driven by the Insured provided such vehicle does not belong to him or his employer and is not hired to him under a hire purchase agreement'.

The important point here is that in this context of 'any other private motor car' it is only the driving of the insured which is covered.

The first section on the front of your insurance certificate will clearly state the name of the Insured. A named driver is not 'the insured' under the policy.

All this confusion could be avoided if we stopped following the UK system - it is only they and we who base insurance on the driver use. On mainland Europe, motor insurance is based on the vehicle. That is why some other countries seem to have lower rates of uninsured driving than in Ireland, but it is really an apples and oranges comparison.

If we switched to the EU system and just compared the number of active motor policies against the number of currently registered vehicles, our image would be one of greater compliance.

This might also help to make the Irish insurance market more attractive to new entrants.

It would certainly make Garda enforcement more straightforward, and surely that would be welcomed?

Indo Motoring

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