Why Does Car Insurance Cost So Much?

Go on, guess.

My high premiums aren’t because I prang my car a lot, or make other people have accidents. Though there was that crash I caused in 1975 or so, when I collided with a Morris Traveller van and managed to remove some of its wooden trim. The owner glued it back on. Total cost of the repair: £1.50.

I don’t indulge in James Bond-esque 200 mph jaunts the wrong way up dual carriageways, let alone launch my car off the tops of buildings. So it’s a mystery to me why Sheila’s Wheels wants to relieve me of huge wodges of money on an annual basis.

But now I can thank a certain coach driver for leading me to the explanation as to why car insurance costs so much.

On a blisteringly hot August afternoon, said coach opts to use the offside lane of the A41 and hits my car from the side.

The lucky thing is that only my wing mirror is damaged, though the cat, imprisoned in a basket on the passenger seat, seems a bit miffed at the delay as the coach driver and I stop to exchange details.

cat in travel basket

It seems pretty clear-cut. The other guy has wandered far enough into my lane to break something off my car.

Yet this minor damage then takes three months to sort out.

The driver tells me he works for United Busways. That’s the first problem, because he doesn’t. He used to work for them, but, after a couple of phone calls, I learn he’s now with National Express, despite what it said on his bus.

back view of coach

I can only find 0871 phone numbers for National Express, but, after one long expensive call, someone refers me to a depot in Hertfordshire. Two more calls later, nobody seems that interested, though one of the people I speak to lets slip the name of the bus company’s insurer, Gallagher Bassett.

Now I am on to something. I speak to Gallagher Bassett and learn that the driver has logged a report of the accident. There will be CCTV footage too, to be examined in the next few days.

I have spent over an hour on the phone to six different people, but it sounds like a resolution is in sight.

But I was wrong. If you want to cut to the chase, it’s in bold near the bottom of this post.

Someone from a branch of theirs called CAA promises to arrange an inspection at a time convenient to me.  “It’s only a wing mirror,” I say, and offer to email a photo of the damage, but apparently an engineer must inspect it in person.

Nothing happens. Six days later, I chase the insurance company. Apologies for the delay and all that, they say. There’s no sign of the CCTV yet, so they will chase the bus company as well as CAA and get back to me.

That’s another 15 minutes on the phone.

Rebecca from CAA does get in touch, and tells me that someone from Hoopers Engineers in Liverpool will come to inspect my car. “It’s only a wing mirror,” I point out again.

VW Golf wing mirror

Michelle from Hoopers does arrange an inspection, which isn’t ideal as I end up missing a lunch appointment, but I want my new wing mirror sometime soon.

The engineer from Hoopers spends around 20 minutes or more studying my car thoroughly, including its mileage, chassis number, and the height of the mirror above the ground.

The days later still nothing, so I ring the insurer. The next half a dozen phone calls over a period of a few weeks are much the same and by now I know the claims reference number by heart. Yes, the CCTV footage still is awaited. They will chase the bus company again. Yes it can take a while, but no, it doesn’t usually take this long. They’ll contact them today and get back to me.

On September 22, six weeks from the accident, there is a breakthrough. I’m told the CCTV is “being sent out” and would I please give them a couple more days. One detail bothers me. Aren’t all video recordings digitized?  Apparently not.

A week later, still nothing. Four further calls in the next week or so establish that the CCTV recording failed. It was never “being sent out.” However, on the basis that the damage was not substantial, the insurance company offers to settle the claim.

I can confirm that as a result of the failed CCTV we would be happy to settle your claim on a Without Prejudice Basis as per our repair team CAA’s quoted estimate of £360.”  

I still have to go through their approved repairer rather than my local VW garage which happens to be within walking distance, but no matter. No further estimate will be needed, and I will soon be driving around with a mirror that isn’t held on with parcel tape.

wing mirror held on with parcel tape

Unfortunately the approved repairer insists on drawing up their own estimate anyway, despite the previous estimate and my mantra “It’s only a wing mirror.”

It takes two goes to get the estimator here, then he doesn’t turn up when he said he would because he has a hospital appointment that morning.  When he finally arrives in the afternoon, he studies the car and the chassis number again.

The repair is booked for November 5. I consider setting off fireworks to celebrate.

About two hours after the appointed time on the day, Matt from Fix Auto arrives to collect my car. I had imagined two guys in a car, one of whom would drive my car back to the garage.

This is what Matt shows up in, complete with flashing lights.

recovery vehicle

It seems a bit over-the-top. As I point out to Matt, it is only a wing mirror.

My car did not return the same day as promised, but the next day, again with Matt and his recovery vehicle.

To sum up, getting the broken wing mirror replaced took twelve weeks and cost around £250 for the repair, plus 24 phone calls, two estimates, and two trips in a recovery truck. If you assume that each call costs a modest £25 for each of the participants in the call, the estimators’ visits come in at £100 each, and the recovery truck costs £80 per round trip, it comes to a total of over £1,800. That’s a very restrained guesstimate and the true cost could be much higher because there are so many different people who add little value but still cost money.  

It was only a frigging wing mirror!   Just imagine the figures had whiplash or another injury been part of the claim.

But the madness doesn’t stop there. Driver Matt told me that a coach had hit him on the way over to me, damaging the side of his truck…

Wonder why I pursued this claim myself? It’s because when my previous car was broken into, the insurance company insisted on recording it as ‘your accident.’ I tried explaining that I wasn’t even there at the time, that a petty thief who breaks into a locked garage and then smashes a windscreen doesn’t do this accidentally. It is pretty much on purpose, I’d say. But I used the company to make a claim, so they recorded it as my accident. Besides, I thought this claim would be easy to sort out. After all, only a bloody wing mirror.

But a very expensive one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What They Don’t Teach at Medical School

Today GP Geoff gets a new group of medical students to teach. The names may change from week to week, but there’s always at least one swot from Germany or the Far East, a home-grown rugger bugger who is too big for his chair, a student in a hijab, a gay man, a babe who fiddles constantly with her iPhone, and an argumentative leftie.

HP Rapaport Sprague stethoscope, circa 1981

Geoff is a character from my novel One Night at the Jacaranda.  I made him up, but, if you know much about medicine, he seems real enough.

Education is not a vessel to be filled, Geoff muses, but a fire to be lit.  He has forgotten who said, it, but he’s pretty sure the fire should stay lit for the whole of their careers. So the students need a dose of reality.

fire in the political belly

Geoff reflects on his fifteen years of practice. The reality is that patients wangle sick notes because they don’t like their work. They get prescriptions for things they could have bought from the chemist. Well, par for the course.

They also suck you into their lives and dump their shit.  So you get involved when they tell you about their affairs that went wrong, the drugs they score on a Friday night, or how much they hate a sister or brother.

Or when they’re still driving even though they shouldn’t be.

FreeImages.com/Juan Miguel Rodriguez

Case in point: nice Mrs Thingy. Geoff is not too hot good on names, but he knows he advised her very clearly not to drive until her seizures were under control.

The snag is her three children. Geoff instantly forgets what she says her husband does, but he gets the gist. Mr Thingy has to get to Ealing Broadway station by 7am so he can’t do the school run.

“Can you walk them to school instead?” asks Geoff, ready to extol the benefits of blue skies, fresh air, exercise, autumn leaves, and the rest.

suburban street

“Doctor,” she says in a wheedling tone, “if I did that, it’d be a mile and half each way just for the boys. And Poppy is at a different school. There’s just no time. I’d run myself ragged, and that’s not good for my seizures.”

“Perhaps a neighbour can help?” suggests Geoff.

She gives a pitying look. “They’re all pensioners near us.”

“What about asking at the school? You may find a parent of a child in another class who lives near enough to you.”  Geoff is aware he’s running late now.

FreeImages.com/Vikki Hansen

“Well, I don’t know,” says Mrs Thingy.

“Why don’t you talk to the school secretary?” Geoff suggests. He may even need to involve Mr Thingy, find out if he can start work later during term-time. This is as far as one could possibly get from looking through the test results and reminding her about her smear. Geoff makes a mental note to do all this later.

Mrs T says nothing. She stares as if the GP is the baddie who makes up the laws.

Geoff continues, “If you have a seizure at the wheel… Well. It hardly bears thinking about.  Remember the Glasgow bin lorry crash last year? The driver blacked out at the wheel and killed six people.” 

“I know, I know.”  Her glance at the door shows she’d like to end the conversation as soon as possible.

Geoff leans back in the chair, which isn’t far as he has a cheaper model than his partners. “You realize, don’t you, that I’m obligated to contact the DVLA myself if you don’t.”  (For readers outside the UK, this is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.)

Her expression freezes.  “But I thought confidentiality…”

“Doesn’t extend to situations where the public is in danger.” He shakes his head slowly as he pulls a sympathetic face.

“Oh,” she says in a small voice. “Right.”

Geoff knows what he will discuss with his students today. Confidentiality.

And the knack patients have of sucking you into their lives.

***

Easy tweet: “What They Don’t Teach at Medical School http://wp.me/p3uiuG-14k via @DrCarolCooper” #medicine #students

A Little Road Trip

This will be short as I’m going away for a few days with one or two old school friends. By which of course I’m saying that I’ve known them a long time. What else could it possibly mean?

It could be a navigational challenge, so I’m taking this.

map of Italy

And these, obviously.

magnifier and glasses

I don’t trust sat nav, not after it dumped me the wrong way on a dual carriage-way. I’m sure we’ll be fine. Don’t you agree?  If all else fails, I can rely on this to call someone.  

BlackBerry

Especially if I charge it this time.

And we’re taking this, because it’s not a proper trip to Italy without Eros Ramazzotti. Particularly when you’re stuck on the side of the wrong road with a flat tyre.

Eros Ramazzotti

Arrivederci a presto!