Note: The law on insurance has changed since this query was answered
I insured the bike with one of the leading bike insurers at a value of £7,000, which is exactly what I paid for it, and put on the proposal form that it was a CBF1000 GT.
A few months later, I slipped off my bike, probably as a result of ice forming on manhole covers. That hurt, but what really annoyed me was when I put in the claim.
The claims adjusters told me that because my bike was non-standard, they would only pay out on a standard bike, at about £1,650 less.
When I pointed out to my insurers a virtually brand new bike was being massively under compensated, they helpfully told me that I, “Should have declared the extras on my proposal form”. I know I’ve been ripped off, but can I do anything about it?
Philip Tait, Cheshire
Yes, you can. The key document is your proposal form. A contract of insurance is a contract of utmost good faith, where any declarations you make can entirely void the policy if they are inaccurate.
Nearly all contracts of insurance have the following within the first clauses: “Every question we ask you is a material question. If you answer the question incorrectly or wrongly whether deliberately, or by accident even through no fault of your own, we can void the policy”.
So any non-declaration can void the policy, which means it’s treated as though it never existed. It won’t affect any third party rights against you, like if your bike is involved in an accident where somebody else gets hurt, but it can give the insurance company the right to come after you for money.
These problems tend to come up on theft claims or accident damage claims, where the insurers and their loss adjusters have access to your bike, so they can see that it’s had fitments put on which you haven’t declared. They don’t have to pay for them if you haven’t declared them.
But in this case, you had declared them by stating your bike was a CBF1000 GT, and Honda confirmed that your bike was standard. I’m glad you stuck at this as long as you did. Your insurers eventually did what they should have done from day one; pay you out on the bike you had properly declared on your insurance proposal. A lot of people would have given up £1,650.
As a general word of warning, keep a photocopy of your insurance proposal and don’t let any error creep in. The most common query I get from readers relates to insurers refusing to pay out on theft or damage claims, relying on material non-disclosure. Cover yourself by making sure that every point you put down on your proposal is totally correct and keep a copy.