With car insurance, read the small print

CarsIn recent years there appears to have been an increase in cancelled car insurance policies. The consequences of this can be severe, so it is more important than ever to make sure that you have complied with all your obligations when taking out insurance, and that you know the conditions of your insurance when you drive.

There are many ways a valid policy of insurance can become invalid or be cancelled. Here are some common examples of the problems that can arise:

  • When car insurance is taken out online the policy will be issued on the basis that specified conditions, like sending a copy of your driving licence, are satisfied within a short time. If those conditions are not satisfied, the policy will be cancelled. All insurance policies are subject to honesty and accuracy requirements and any attempt to mislead an insurer or hide relevant information, like convictions or not having a full licence, can make a policy invalid.
  • If you pay your premium by monthly direct debit and your account does not have enough to pay an installment the insurer can cancel the policy. They must notify you that the policy has been cancelled and specify the date when cover stops, but it is important to avoid this scenario by making sure monthly payments are met. Your insurance disc might look valid after it has been cancelled, but if Gardaí ask the insurance company they will be told that you do not have insurance.
  • All policies require that the driver either holds or held a valid driving licence, but the specific condition can vary. Most car insurance policies provide that the driver is covered even if your driving licence has expired, so long as you had a valid driving licence in the past. However, motorbike policies are often more strict and require a current licence. It is also important to check any unusual conditions that apply to learner drivers.
  • Drivers are often confused as to how wide their policy is, what an “open drive” policy covers or whether a named driver on one policy can drive another car. Generally, the main insured of a private car will be covered to drive a different car with the permission of the owner, but a named driver will not unless they have a separate policy in their own name.

A conviction for driving without insurance can lead to a substantial fine and a disqualification from driving for two years. Judges can decide not to disqualify a driver on the first conviction, but a recent Court of Appeal decision has limited that judicial discretion somewhat and suggests that it is no longer enough to claim the driver will lose his or to avoid disqualification. If an uninsured driver is involved in an accident, the financial consequences can be significant and long-term.

There are many variables involved in car insurance, so the terms and conditions of each policy are crucial. Apart from the risk of your policy being cancelled, it is also important to be clear on what uses are covered, what can be claimed under the policy and what scenarios are explicitly excluded. Drivers should be aware that not all policies contain the same wording. When you receive your insurance policy check the specific conditions carefully, particularly before driving someone else’s vehicle.

We have decades of experience in representing drivers when charged with motor insurance offences and other Road Traffic Act prosecutions. Contact us for advice and representation in Limerick and North Kerry.

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