lifestyle

How can an insurance firm send my beloved BMW to scrap?


In October I was involved in a minor accident driving my old, but beloved, BMW 740 (1997). The vehicle I hit had slammed its brakes on, and, although the driver called the police, he was subsequently arrested for being on drink or drugs.

Ever since, I have been battling my insurer, Privilege, to receive a reasonable payout.

On the basis of a series of photos, it decreed the car is a category B write-off – so badly damaged it should not be allowed back on the road.

I have challenged this as I would like to have it repaired. I have asked that it actually inspects the car, rather than assuming it is structurally damaged.

Privilege has refused to do this and has told me that, even if I send my own engineer who finds it can be restored, it will not change its mind. Its attitude has been that the company now owns my car, and that is that. The courtesy car I was offered for two weeks has been taken back.

I have really looked after the car since I bought it in 2000 and it has only covered 105,000 miles. It is a design classic but the company has offered a derisory £4,150 for it. I feel very badly treated.

DF, Altringham

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Sadly, this story gets worse. Even after I had suggested to the company that the only reasonable outcome was that it send an independent engineer to examine the car, it was, according to Privilege, accidentally sent to be scrapped. This was done without your permission and even after the executive team had become involved in your complaint.

The company, part of the Direct Line group, has defended its original decision not to send someone to examine the car and said its engineers acted professionally.

As well as sending the car to be scrapped – which it has apologised for – it has refused to increase its £4,500 valuation. After my intervention, it agreed to refund your £350 excess, and to pay a further £210 towards taxi costs as a (rather lacklustre) gesture of goodwill. Once an extra sum is added for petrol taken from the car (don’t ask) is added, it brings your total payout to just short of £5,000.

You believe the car is worth closer to £6,000, and have sent examples of the few similar cars currently for sale.

I am not sure it is worth £6,000 but agree that the way that Privilege has dealt with your claim has been high handed from the start. Having sent your car to be scrapped while negotiations were ongoing, the company has seemingly denied you the opportunity to challenge its decisions.

If you still want to pursue this, I would hire a specialist insurance expert, Motor Claim Guru, Tim Kelly. He says he still may be able to get your car back, will examine it, and ultimately act on your behalf with Privilege. Whether the value of this claim will justify his fees is another matter, but he is highly recommended.

Alternatively, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) will look at your case for free, but it will take months to come up with a decision.

“If your vehicle was scrapped without your consent, we’ll look at how this affected you. We might tell your insurer to compensate you for any distress or inconvenience that this caused, as well as for any items that were inside the car when it was scrapped,” it advises.

The online reviews from others who have claimed from Privilege do not make pretty reading. I’d be interested to know other readers’ experiences – good or bad? Email the usual address.

Going abroad soon? Here’s a PCR warning

A lot of people seem to have had their festive holiday plans thrown into chaos after they unexpectedly failed the pre-departure PCR test demanded by their destination country.

It appears that these tests are returning positive results for those who had Covid several months before.

The government advises that people who previously received a positive result do not take another PCR test within 90 days, for this reason. However, proof of recovery certificates are accepted by a small group of countries in lieu of a negative test. They are available via the NHS app.

We welcome letters but cannot answer individually. Email consumer.champions@theguardian.com or write to Guardian, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU. Include a phone number. Letters are subject to our terms: gu.com/letters-terms



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