Catches that lurk in your cover
Insurance policies often contain conditions that can mean a rejected claim if you don't comply to the letter. Here are ten common policy pitfalls with car, house and holiday insurance to be avoided:
Just buying an insurance policy doesn't mean you are certain to get a payout if something goes awry, as many people find to their cost each year. Here is how to avoid the common pitfalls when it comes to insurance claims.
Non-disclosure of convictions or claims: Remember that speeding fine and three points your picked up three years ago? It may be a distant memory, and one you're not too fond of, but you must tell your insurer about any convictions you have incurred over the past five years, including the type of offence, the amount of the fine, the number of points you were given and the length of any ban.
Failing to declare car modifications: Drivers who don't inform their insurere of any modifications that have been made to a vehicle can invalidate a policy, a mistake motorists cannot afford to make.
Filtting alloy wheels or rear spoilers is considered a 'modification' by insurers and, if they are not declared when applying for cover, a claim can be rejected. Adding these alterations can increase car insurance premiums because they make it more of a theft target or enhance the performance of your car.
It's important to remember that some modifications are illegal, which can also affect the validity of your policy. An example of this is that the law requires that the windows on the vehicle allow at least 75% of light through the front windscreen and 70% of light through the front side windows.
Get your mileage right: What lengths would you go to for a lower premium? If you drive 20,000 miles a year but you tell your insurer that you drive 10,000, don't be surprised if your claim is thrown out.
Most insurers realise that people may drive a bit further than they think when they take out a policy and will usually allow for that, but an excessive underestimate won't be appreciated.
Handing out or hiding keys: Apparently 80% of us have given keys to our home to friends, family, cleaners and tradesmen. What's more, many home owners hide their house keys outside in plant pots, under a rock or a mat, or in the shed or porch. Yet few of us realise that this could invalidate our home insurance policy, should our home subsequently be burgled.
Declaring incorrect door locks: When applying for home insurance cover, you must state whether the locks in your home are British 'safety standard', a five-lever mortise lock confiorming to BS3621, or a cylinder-rim deadlock.
Not surprisingly - especially since a householder would often need to take the lock out of the door to find out - this question is often answered inforrectly. If you make a mistake when identifying your locks and it is subsequently found that the lock does not match that described on your policy, your insurer may be inclined to reduce or refuse a payout.
When guests make a claim invalid: If you throw a party and a guest causes damage to your home or belongings, you may not be covered. Likewise, if you have a lodger or your partner moves in with you but you haven't delcared this to your insurer, you may find that your claim is rejected, should you need to make one. So it's crucial that you let your insurer know if the number of people resident in your property changes.
Disposing of damaged goods: If you are the victim of flooding and your furniture and carpets are water-damaged, your instinct will be to toss away any soggy items when you have the first chance. However, in your attempts to return your home to normal, you may be reducing your claim for damages.
To make a claim you will need to provide evidence of the damage to a loss assessor from your insurer and people who throw out the items in quesiton before the inspection may face challenges. Only throw out damaged goods if it is frozen food that has thawed out in a freezer. But in this case it is crucial at least to take photographs to record the damage.
Failure to notify the police: If you're the victim of theft, you must repor the incident to the police within 24 hours. Insurers need a crime number as part of the claim process. Failure to obtain a number will cast doubt on whether a theft has genuinely taken place and potentially cuase a claim to be rejected. Insurers would question why a theft that should be reported to the police hasn't been, even if there's little chance of the items being recovered.
Drinking when on holiday: Your travel insurance policy could be invalidated if you suffer an accident after drinking alcohol when on holiday, even if you're not drunk, then make a claim for any medical bills.
The maximum you can drink and be safe in the knowledge that your claim will not be turned down is under the UK legal driving limit - 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood will not be covered, regardless of which country you are in.
There is no specific limit but, if alcohol is a significant factor in a claim, then that is careless. Teetotalness is not expected but what is reasonable in one situation might be unreasonable in other one.
Not checking in for a flight: Many holidaymakers who find themselves unable to go on holiday for reasons beyond their control, such as severe weather or their hotel going bust, assume thaty they need not check in for the flight they are not able to take.
Most policies make checking in a requirement for claims under the 'travel delay' section. This is because insurers need to be able to see that the customer arrived in time to dcatch the flight and that any delay was the fault of the airline, not the customer.
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I would imagine that, inadvertently, we must all be guilty of at least one of these - but will double-check these in future ...