Aoife MacManus of JMK Solicitors is well used to dealing with insurance companies on behalf of her clients to ensure they get their rights following a Road Traffic Collision or personal injury claim. Recently Aoife had to stand up to her own insurance company following a break-in to her vehicle and shares her experiences to help other motorists faced with a similar issue.
One of those unfortunate incidents that you never hope to experience in your life happened to me recently. I returned to my car after work one day to discover that I had been the victim of an attempted theft. Thankfully, nothing was taken and the only damage was a broken window. After the initial shock had worn off I had to be pragmatic and realise that it could have been worse.
However, when I went to then make a claim from my motor insurance policy for the damaged window I didn’t expect to have to be on my guard against my insurer also!
A friend had once told me that ‘when you have damage to your car, that’s your first misfortune and when you ring your insurer that’s your second!’ This rang true for me when I was whisked through a claims process that was not in my best interests.
I was told that I would be able to get the window fixed with no effect on my policy and that there would be a low fixed cost. There was no attempt made by my insurer to give advice or guidance in relation to what was going to happen to my car.
You assume from all the cuddly, touchy-feely adverts that insurance companies are your friend and will always act in your best interests but this is not the case.
When I telephoned the company fixing my window, I was informed that the window could be fixed within 24 hours. I was not informed that the glass that was going to be used was not made by the manufacturer of my car. (Also called the Original Equipment Manufacturer or OEM). When I specifically asked whether OEM glass would be fitted, I was told that glass of a similar standard would be provided. I asked what this meant and why it would not be OEM glass. I was informed that it was simply not on offer at the low fixed cost and additionally if I wanted this glass fitted it would not be available for another three days. You can see how a person might feel pressure to just agree to what was being offered rather than paying more and waiting with an unsecured vehicle.
When a person buys insurance it is so that when the worst happens, you will be put back into the position you were before the accident. This is called being indemnified to the pre-loss condition.
If my car had been replaced with a Non-OEM window, would I be in the position I was in before the attempted theft? I have no specialist knowledge to tell me if the Non-OEM glass that they were going to fit to my car was safe or not – but I don’t think they do either!
I telephoned my insurance company to tell them that I was not going to accept what was happening and that I wanted them to authorise OEM-glass be fitted at no extra cost to me. They immediately backed down and agreed!
Insurance companies exist to make money for their shareholders and we have to be aware that with this aim they will be tempted to do things that enhance their profits rather than reduce them.
My experience has left me with the impression that my insurer was happy to have their customers be in blissful ignorance of what they were doing with the repair to the car but as soon as the customer was as informed as they would be unable to justify what they were doing.
It was a valuable lesson for me that you have to have your wits about you when dealing with insurance companies and I would urge anyone who has to make a claim under a policy to seek independent advice before simply accepting at face-value what your insurer tells you.
Established in 2003, JMK Solicitors operates from offices in Belfast and Newry, servicing clients from across Northern Ireland. If you would like to contact JMK Solicitors, please call their Newry Office on 028 3025 7766 or Belfast office on 028 9032 0222.