Crash bang wallop! Are insurers hitting your pocket?

Being involved in a car accident is not something you want to think about. Yet sadly, a fair number of us will experience a ‘prang’ at some point during our driving life. Thankfully, in most cases, it’s a relatively minor bump or scrape – and hey, there’s always the insurance to cover it, right?

Well, yes. But sometimes, the process of claiming is not all it seems. In fact, recent undercover documentaries have exposed some of the tricks of the trade which may be contributing to the steep rise in premiums over the last few years. All is not as it seems it would appear.

Insurers would have us believe it’s all down to the UK’s status as the whiplash capital of Europe – they claim whiplash claims have driven up premiums across the car insurance market as whole by £2bn. That’s around £90 per policy ! But that assessment should be treated with caution.

For a start, if you think you’ve suffered a whiplash injury due to a car accident that wasn’t your fault, you have every right to pursue a claim (medical evidence and the advice of a reliable personal injury lawyer is the way forward in such cases). Then there are those tricks of the trade we talked about- such as the practice that is now commonly known as ‘steering’. In a nutshell, here’s how it works.

‘Steering’ you the wrong way?

Let’s say you are involved in an accident where you are deemed to be at fault and there’s damage to your car. You call your insurer and they deal with your claim by directing or ‘steering’ you to one of their ‘approved garages’ to have any relevant repairs or body work done – even though you could have the repairs done just as well at another garage. The principle is simple: by using their approved garage, the insurer can control the costs. But does that mean compromising on quality of repairs?

Repairs at an 'approved' garage
Insurers can force (or ‘mandate’) their approved garage to use more expensive parts or products when repairing your vehicle.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) claims that safety is never compromised in such situations and that keeping costs to a minimum benefits drivers through keeping premiums down. But what if you are making a claim as the ‘not-at-fault’ party? Well, by way of contrast, it would appear some insurers may see this as an opportunity to drive costs up and pass the increase on to rival firms.

Making a profit on top

They can do this by forcing (or ‘mandating’) their approved garage to use more expensive parts or products when repairing your vehicle (e.g. better paint for bodywork damage) and taking a cut or ‘rebate’ off the bill. So, in effect, this type of activity is functioning as an income stream to generate more profit for one insurer at the expense of another. And of course, if the latter is saddled with a higher cost, it can be passed on through higher premiums. So it’s drivers as a whole that suffer.

Such practices are nothing new – or illegal. But they do throw some new light on the real cost of getting into a car accident. Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid an accident of course. But the best advice has to be: drive as safely as you possibly can at all times to avoid counting the cost. And remember, if you are injured due to a car accident that wasn’t your fault, speak to a reliable personal injury lawyer. The team at Watermans have the experience and expertise to advise you.