‘My parked car was hit twice, but the insurers won’t pay’

Jacqueline Green’s vehicle is a write-off after two crashes that weren’t her fault. So why is she unable to claim?

Is this the unluckiest car owner in London? Jacqueline Green has been left with a wrecked car after two drivers separately crashed into her parked vehicle in the space of two weeks, but in neither case has she been able to get an insurer to pay the £3,000 it was worth.

The architect, who is married with two children, says the family’s Ford S-Max that was parked outside their Peckham home has been left undriveable. Despite contacting everyone involved, she says she has not been able to get anyone to take responsibility for the incidents.

The first crash happened at the end of July, when a Mercedes S-Class crashed into the car in the middle of the night. Although there were witnesses, and the Mercedes remained at the scene for several hours, no one took down the number plate. By the morning the Mercedes was gone and the family woke to discover they had been victims of a hit and run. As they were due to go on holiday the next day, the family were forced to hire a car.

When they returned two weeks later they discovered a minicab driver had crashed into their car, causing damage to the other end. The driver was insured with Markerstudy, but Green says the firm indicated that it would probably not pay the claim as the crash was caused by a medical emergency.

“We are only covered for third party, fire and theft so our insurance company Axa isn’t interested in helping us,” Green says. “As the first accident was ‘damage only’ the police were also unable to help. Having spoken to two councils about CCTV footage, I was informed they would only release it to an insurance company or the police, neither of whom will help us.”

Green called the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB), the industry body that helps victims of uninsured drivers, and was initially told it could only assist if the Mercedes involved in the first incident could be identified.

“We couldn’t believe it when we discovered that another car had crashed into ours,” says Green. “We have parked there for several years without incident. In the second case we had a driver who had accepted culpability – but we were astonished when his insurance company said it would not pay up as he’d had a stroke. So we have had two accidents – neither our fault – and a written-off car that’s going nowhere.”

Green says she accepts Axa is not liable as her policy was only third party, fire and theft, but says staff couldn’t have been any less helpful. She says it closed the case a day after telling her it would look into the matter. Axa has since apologised and paid her £100 in compensation.

Guardian Money asked the MIB whether what Green had been told was correct. It has now said it will try to assist in retrieving the CCTV footage, and Green has filed a claim.

“MIB provides compensation under the terms of agreements made between it and the secretary of state for transport [known as the uninsured and untraced drivers agreements],” says a spokeswoman. “One of the requirements to claim for vehicle damage is that it must be possible to identify the vehicle at fault. In this case it would seem it might be possible to identify the vehicle as she mentions CCTV footage may be available.”

Damage to Jacqueline Green’s car in south London.
Damage to Jacqueline Green’s car after it was crashed into in south London. Photograph: Martin Godwin/The Guardian

The spokeswoman says the MIB would not look at the second claim because that driver was insured.

This is not the first time Money has highlighted the apparent inequity of an insurer being allowed to decline a claim because the driver had a medical incident and therefore had not been negligent (see box). Markerstudy told Money it had not refused Green’s claim and investigations were ongoing, but the driver was still in hospital. “We are therefore unable to comment on the situation further, but are continuing to investigate the claim,” it adds. However, a spokeswoman indicated that any payout was likely to be reduced as the car was already damaged by the first crash.

Meanwhile, there is a happier postscript of sorts. A stranger has come to the family’s aid after reading of their plight on Facebook. This person has given them an old Citroen Picasso to use while they sort the matter out. It is not clear where the Greens will park the vehicle, but it will probably have to be in the same south London road.

A bitter insurance pill to swallow

Many motorists will be unaware that an insurer can refuse to pay out if a driver suffers an unforeseen medical emergency that results in them crashing into your car.

In the past, Guardian Money has featured the case of a car owner hit by a driver who had suffered a heart attack. Their claim to his insurer was turned down on the basis that the driver had known nothing about the event so could not have been negligent – the crucial test for claims to be paid.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says most people buy comprehensive insurance for such an eventuality. Those who have “third party only” cover will face an uphill battle to get an insurer to pay up.

An ABI spokesman says: “If you claim on your own comprehensive policy for an incident involving another driver, your insurer may be able to claim back the costs of repairing or replacing your vehicle, and you claim back your uninsured losses, such as the excess, from the other driver’s insurer. But this will only be possible if it can be shown they were negligent and so at fault for causing the damage. If a driver becomes seriously ill at the wheel, this may be difficult to prove.”

A driver who failed to take prescribed medication and had a crash as a result of a medical incident could be said to have been negligent. But to prove that, the victim would need access to their medical records.


Miles Brignall

The GuardianTramp

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