Honest John: should I sue 'crash scam' driver who duped my insurer?

Our 'agony uncle' advises on what to do if your insurer has paid out on a claim that you believe is suspicious, causing your premium to rise

light collision damage on two cars - cracked front bumpers and rumpled bonnets
Whether there's apparent damage or not, can your insurer pay a claim against you without consulting you?

If your car has developed a fault, or for consumer advice, turn to Honest John by emailing [email protected]

Water bored

A road near my house was flooded and impassable. All the cars, including mine, were reversing until they could find somewhere to make a turn and find an alternative route. A learner driver came up behind my car as I was reversing into a gateway. Fortunately I missed her although she behaved as though we had collided, so I and her male companion took photos of both vehicles. There is no evidence of any damage. I explained the above to my insurer, though the operative didn’t seem very interested. Now I hear that my insurer paid out a couple of thousand pounds without consulting me. I don’t know if there was a claim for damage or perhaps even whiplash injury. Can insurers do this if their employees find it less hassle to settle (and thereby facilitate a scam at my expense)? AO  

You need to talk to a specialist such as [email protected] You probably need to sue the other driver directly in the small claims track of the county court for the financial damage she has caused you in increased insurance premiums for years to come through her lies. If she lies again in court, that is perjury – and she could go to jail. Remind her of that fact.

Cover drive

I have been driving since 1960 and I am now having trouble getting reasonably priced insurance. I had two minor claims registered against me in the last five years. One was settled for less than £500 and the second was not pursued by the claimant. No one was injured in either incident. My car is a Citroën and I have owned it since new in 2008. A friend suggested I would get a better deal if I registered a younger co-driver. I don’t intend to do this because I would feel uncomfortable – my family live a distance away, so there is no available co-driver, but I am interested in whether this is true and, if so, why? JA

It can help to have other middle-aged drivers on the policy because it spreads the statistical risk, but you have to be honest. The other named drivers have to be local to where the car is kept and have to drive it from time to time. Inevitably your insurance premiums will rise due to your age and the two incidents, so it will be expensive. I pay £1,500 a year comprehensive for my trade policy and have no claims or convictions at all. Unfortunately, unless you agree to limit your mileage by a substantial amount, I think you must expect to pay between £500 and £1,000 for your insurance cover.

Kiwi fruitless

Another fine mess: can you rely on a sympathetic magistrate if it goes to court? Credit: Jansos / Alamy

My wife hurt her back in a fall. As we were scheduled to fly to New Zealand two days later, I took her to the A&E department, which said it was OK for her to fly. In the heat of the moment I forgot to pay for a parking ticket. When we returned seven weeks later, I found several letters from CP Plus that resulted in a fine increase from £50 to £150. I wrote to CP Plus explaining that I had been out of the country and asking if this could be taken into account. I also enclosed my flight schedules as evidence. They replied that since the time limit for an appeal had expired they had referred the matter to their collection agent. Their reply strikes me as being disingenuous. I feel tempted to let them take me to court in the belief that the magistrate might be prepared to accept the mitigating circumstances. What do you recommend? WB

Pay the penalty. I just paid one after a hotel I frequently use surreptitiously installed a Parking Eye monitoring system. I will not use that hotel again. They have the law on their side, which is Beavis v Parking Eye, Supreme Court, November 2015; but they might also lose customers. You have no legal defence. Sir Greg Knight gained Royal Assent to his Private Parking (Code of Practice) Bill in March 2019. The Code has yet to be imposed, so the Supreme Court ruling stands. See the DVLA website for details.

Mind the gap

Czech mate: but why must the new owner wait for the V5C registration document?

I am buying a pre-registered 20-reg Skoda from a main dealer. They say they need to keep the V5C registration document for four months but that the car will be taxed during this period. What documentation can I ask the dealer to give me to confirm that the VED has been paid? As I am paying for the car outright, why can’t the dealer give me the V5C on completion? BD

This car will have been registered to the dealer, or to a fleet. The discount on it is conditional on it being registered to the dealer or fleet for four months and that’s why it does not have to be retaxed. However, this is extremely dubious. You will not officially own it until registered keepership is transferred to you and you start paying VED. Any penalties based on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras will go to the registered keeper first, not to you. You must inform your insurer that you are not the registered keeper and that might make it difficult to obtain cover. There was a private criminal prosecution over Misleading Omissions under Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008/1378. In Regina (House of Cars) v Derby Car and Van Contacts Ltd, Derby Crown Court before HHJ Burgess on June 12 2012, the purchaser was sold a car as new when it had been pre-registered to a fleet and remained registered to that fleet. This put the purchaser in breach of Section 43c of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 as he used the car on the road but was not the registered keeper, hirer or company driver. The simple solution is this instance would be for the car to be leased or hired to the buyer for the first four months.

Caledonian thistle

Watching brief: but is the camera site fair, or indeed the beam legal? Credit: ENP / Alamy

On the A9 south of Inverness, I recently spotted a white police camera van operating in a layby with newly installed roof bars front and back, equipped with full-width yellow flashing warning lights. Am I being unfair to rate this as a sneaky and deceptive policy, or are they giving speeding motorists a sporting chance by drawing attention to themselves? AL

Well, we know what they’re doing now, so anyone reading this is forewarned. Robbie the Pict (your local radio DJ) has made an argument that there is no basis in law for using laser speed traps. He believes pulsed laser-beams are not legal. Only timing between transverse solid beams in a double-gate arrangement has actually been authorised in law. No radar or laser guns pointing at the front of an oncoming or the rear of a departing vehicle are legally authorised, and that has been the case since the 1996 arrival of LTI 20-20 laser guns. These earned £1.5 billion in fines, never mind the fall-out (court costs, insurance hikes, losing your job, etc). Under the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, subordinate legislation S.I.1993/1698 authorises, at Section 2(b): “A device designed or adapted for recording a measurement of the speed of motor vehicles activated by means of a light beam or beams for the purpose of criminal prosecution of those deemed to have exceeded any prevailing speed limit.” However, a single beam of light cannot measure speed without any frame of reference. 

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