This is a relatively new practice. An insurer sets the premium based on your proposal and if you say “I never carry a pillion”, then in the event of you having a collision the risk the insurers have covered is you alone. They do not insure you against the risk of injury, but they are obliged by both British and European law to meet any pillion’s claim for harm arising from your negligence. But you paid your premium on the basis that they would never have to meet such a claim and will have discounted the premium accordingly.

As a matter of law, since the Consumer Insurance (Disclosure and Representations) Act 2012 came in, you have to answer questions in your policy proposal with reasonable care. If you say you never carry a pillion and you crash with a pillion then they will have to meet a risk they have not been paid a premium for.

So, what can they do? They will have to meet your pillion’s claim or judgment, and what it has cost them in legal fees and damages could easily run to tens of thousands, or – if your pillion was paralysed or very seriously injured – millions of pounds. But even if your pillion walked away, your insurers are covering a risk which you did not declare and they would have strong legal grounds to come after you for any outlay paid to any third party.

The moral is simple. Fill in your insurance proposal with care and if you say “no pillions” fit a single seat or remember that carrying a pillion could, if things go wrong, go very wrong for you indeed.

As a general point any declaration you make on a proposal form has the same effect. If you say you do not use the bike for a commute and you do, the same consequences apply, likewise for business use or failing to declare old claims or convictions. The situation has eased a little since 2013 when that Consumer Insurance (Disclosure and Representations) Act 2012 came into force. Before then any minor error on your part could have this effect and some dodgy insurers would try to wriggle out of non-declarations – as well as some of the allegedly ‘reputable’ insurers.

Prior to 20121 was utterly enraged by a very big insurer declining to pay out on three stolen off-road bikes as the bikes had been “modified” with uprated fork springs and slightly more viscous fork oil – and the Financial Ombudsman upheld the refusal to pay. That position would not be upheld now and the old situation of insurers refusing to pay up because an aftermarket sat nav had not been declared would not now stand. Now if the insurer does not ask, you do not have to declare. But if asked you must answer truthfully and with reasonable care.

Andrew Dalton

RiDE Magazine – December 2015