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Insurers are not always 'villains of the piece'

Published:Sunday | June 24, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Insurance Helpline With Cedric Stephens

On March 31 of this year, I was driving from Ewarton to Kingston. While on the Ewarton to Byndloss main road, my car was hit in the rear by a male driver at approximately 2:20 p.m. He was travelling in the same direction. We reported the collision at the Linstead Police Station. The man admitted that he was at fault. He was distracted by someone along the roadway who had called out to him. When asked to present evidence of insurance, he told the police that he would submit a cover note on Monday, April 2; he did not have one in his possession. I checked with his insurers that day only to discover that his vehicle was not insured. The Linstead police told me that he had not presented his papers to them that day. The police called me the next day to say that the driver had presented his documents. He paid his premium on March 3. The driver told me subsequently that he'd taken all relevant documents to the insurance company and had made a claim for settling the damage to my car, which was estimated at $150,000. My insurer and I found out that the driver had actually paid his premium after the accident. As a result, his claim would not be honoured. When contacted, the other driver told me that he would pay my repair costs out of his own funds. He promised to do so by May 5. That date has come and gone and nothing has happened. Can you do anything to help?

- C.M., Kingston 5.

Insurers are portrayed as 'villains of the piece' in some of the cases that this column discusses each week. A villain of the piece is, according to Cambridge Dictionaries Online, (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/villain-of-the-piece), "... someone or something which is seen as being the cause of trouble on a particular occasion." The baddie in this instance is not an insurance company. It is the other driver. Two articles in Thursday's Gleaner triggered this line of thought. They involved murders (three), motor vehicles, a collision and some very, very nasty folks. We often forget that there are many scoundrels on our roads.

The guy whose vehicle hit yours appears, on the basis of his actions, to be a lawbreaker and a liar. There is no evidence as yet, how much of a 'rudie' he is. The odds are he does not have the money to repair your car. Alternatively, he appears to be 'stringing you out'. He hopes that you will pay the repair bill while he gets away scot-free - much in the same way that he drove an uninsured vehicle until he was forced to buy insurance coverage or source bogus documents and escape prosecution.

Given what is known about the third party, I suggest that you outsource the recovery effort. Do not make any effort to contact him. Your strategy should be to get professional help. This could take the form of hiring the services of a firm of investigators. This would cost about $25,000.

The output from the investigations would be a report providing details about the third party's income and assets plus an opinion about whether it would make sense to seek legal redress through the courts.

Obtain recovery

Once that information became available, you could decide if it was worth your while to retain the services of an attorney to obtain recovery. Alternatively, you could contact a company called Claim Administrators Limited. They pursue claims on behalf of their customers. I have never used their services but I know and respect the person who heads the company. Best of luck to you.

Last week's article, 'Major hassle over minor claim', resulted in an unsolicited response from a senior official of a major insurer. Here are excerpts from his email: "We have investigated the complaint and have yesterday (Tuesday) authorised repairs. Further, measures are in progress to deal with the circumstances surrounding the complaint in order to prevent a(ny) recurrence. We are cognisant that - (our) professional image - is constantly under the public microscope. It is, therefore, important that we conduct our business to align with principles of integrity and customer-centricity - (and) demonstrate (this) to customers and members of the wider insurance community."

These are the most positive comments that this column has ever received from an insurance company since it started in 1997. They prove the point that insurers are sensitive about their image and do not like being perceived as the villains of the piece.

Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and free advice about the management of risks and insurance. aegis@cwjamaica.com SMS/text message to 812-7233