So this is how it feels every time I make contact with an insurance company to try and make a legitimate claim. It is the most dispiriting customer delivery experience you can go through after trying to get an apology from Ryanair. Sigh…
The latest in a long line of utterly frustrating experiences came this week. Last Wednesday our car was parked in a resident’s parking bay behind the back of our house. It was a beautiful late sunny afternoon. Carol’s brother Colin was staying with us for a few days and we were chatting/chilling and on the cusp of opening a bottle of deliciously crisp white wine. Our patio doors were open as we were enjoying the warmth of the late summer breezes. Just serene. And then…the idyll was broken by the sound of slowly crunching metal. We dashed out to witness the final moment as a local delivery driver who I see every morning, often chat to and having finished his round, slowly reverse his own car into the back of mine. Arghh.
His car had one of those spare wheels on the back and it had lumped into the rear quarter of our car damaging the bumper, light cluster, rear panel etc. Quite a mess. His wheel cover had a few scratches on it. Awffsake. Sick feeling in the stomach moment. Never mind, he apologised profusely, decently admitting complete liability (how could he not?). He said he had none of his insurance details with him but would drop them in the following day. I said we were out in London all day (seeing daughter Becksy) so Friday would be better. Ok, he said, see you then, and sorry again. It was all very amicable and neither of us felt any need to hale the police. Bloody annoying yes but all very civil.
Friday dawned and no appearance from the other driver with his details. I knew he wouldn’t have done a runner or something so later on I popped into the local shop for whom he delivers and asked for his tel no so I could call him to get the relevant details. They were reluctant to give it out but offered to get them for me and call me back. Ok fair do’s. Which they eventually did on Saturday. Umm. I was disappointed with the delay but hey, no biggie.
Meantime I’d called my insurance company on the Friday just to get the accident reported and logged. At least I thought I had. Instead I got a long recorded message and minutes later a live employee from an accident management company acting on their behalf. Apparently I still had an option to deal with my contracted insurance company but they probably wouldn’t provide a replacement vehicle whilst the repairs were undertaken and my premiums would probably increase (even though the accident wasn’t my fault). Oh and I might lose my excess for some reason. So an insurance company yet again not quite offering what they claim and not really wanting to deal with me. Ok, I thought I’d deal with the accident management company, provided they could get my repairs sorted quickly and properly, sort us a replacement vehicle whilst the repairs were undertaken and get all the costs recovered from the other party, as it was clearly their fault and liability had been admitted.
Now I’m sure most of you out there will have spoken to an insurance/accident management person in the past – they are doing a mundane job and are scripted and it’s quite painful. I had to go through all my personal details and circumstances of the accident with the doughty Avril who had the annoying habit of saying ‘that’s not a problem’ after every answer I gave her, as if I was responding challengingly rather than factually. Anyway bearing in mind the interview lasted 40 minutes that was quite a lot of ‘not a problems’.
Eventually all the verbal questions and details were all logged and I was informed that someone else from the company would be contacting me to progress arrangements. Ok no problem. Next thing I see in my inbox is a request from the same company asking me to complete a comprehensive accident report form basically answering the same questions I’d just spent 35 minutes answering verbally. But it was sent as a PDF so it couldn’t be filled in online. I had to get it printed off at my daughter’s 20 minutes away and go and collect it the following morning, then fill it in and scan it and send it back to them. Sigh…
The next day a young chap Damian did contact me from the acc/man company. He asked me to go through all my personal details and those of the accident that I’d already given to Avril over the phone and to his company via the completed and returned accident form. ‘It’s just to validate the information Mr Leonard’. You mean double check the answers I’ve already given? ‘Well we do get fraudulent claims and need to cross check details Mr L’. Sigh. So we went through all the details yet again. ‘And at what speed were you travelling Mr L when the accident happened? For the third time, my car was unattended, parked and stationary in a resident’s parking bay whilst the other car ran into me, I said exasperatedly.
Then after 40 minutes further grilling/clarification we got onto the subject of what happens next. We then strayed into a rather strange area. He asked if I’d be happy to accept a small car as a replacement. No not really. My wife is weeks away from a 3rd knee operation and needs a car that she can get into without too much difficulty and it has to be automatic for similar reasons. So something like the C class we drive would be fine thanks. ‘Ah well if the repairs took some time that’d probably cost around £1000 per week for a like for like replacement’ he said. ‘Could you easily afford that?’ What’s that got to do with anything? Well it’s about betterment – they (the other driver’s insurance company) will challenge any cost where they think you are obviously feathering the nest. Look I said I just want you to get us a replacement car like the one we have that my wife can drive and get to her hospital appointments. I’m not looking for anything more. Ok no problem Mr L but would you be willing to give us bank statements showing how you can or cannot easily afford a replacement car? No fuck off. OK he said but it will be necessary for Mrs L to complete a report form too as the principal on the insurance agreement. Sigh. The form landed in Carol’s inbox immediately and she completed it later.
Eventually we got onto the arrangements for delivering the replacement car and collecting ours. We can arrange for it to be done this week-end he said. Great! We agreed times and details and then he declared that they had no appropriate spare cars and would have to refer it to a credit car hire company (ie one that reclaims costs from the 3rd party). Sigh. Ok no problem. But before leaving he reminded me that the call was being recorded for training and evaluation purposes and would I be willing to say how good I found the interview process. Yes I said, I found it annoyingly repetitive and unnecessary. Plus I was embarrassed as married pensioners to be asked whether or not we could easily afford £2000 of hire car charges and be willing to give over our bank statements to prove it one way or the other. So no, sorry Damian I didn’t find it ‘good’. I found it incredibly uncomfortable.
Two hours later I got a call from another young chap Justin from the credit car hire company, who proceeded to explain that his company would now be pursuing the charges against the other driver’s insurance company. Eh? I was losing the will to live until he then asked if I could relay to him all the circumstances surrounding the accident, not least what speed was I travelling when the accident happened…arrghh!! Forty minutes later we’d gone through the whole deal again. He seemed happy enough with the details and confirmed the times that the replacement car would be delivered (we’d need to show driving licences and 3 proofs of residency) and our car collected. Hurrah so that’s it? I asked. Well first we’d like you to complete a formal accident claim form just to confirm the details and we’ve actually just sent this to you in PDF format, so can you please print it out, complete and return to us via a scan. Argghh. My daughter E delivered it the next day. Oh and could you please send us separately images of the accident scene and location using Google Earth. And finally this call is being monitored for training and evaluation purposes, so would you be willing to say how good you rated my performance? And please bear in mind that 10/10 is a score that would get me a good rating, 9/10 is probably the lowest you could give me before I get a bad performance marking. Ha! I said. I’ll rate you 9 or 10/10 if you deliver what my expensive comprehensive insurance cover is supposed to deliver Justin: ie perfect repairs and a decent comparable replacement car in the meantime.
If not you’ll catch me banging my head a la Basil Fawlty. Or more likely yours Justin.