You will be familiar with the process of applying for an insurance policy. Based on a quote generated by general questions either answered over the internet or by phone your insurers will give you a quotation.

Then, usually but not universally, a written version of your ‘proposal form’ will be sent to you. The word ‘proposal’ is important.

It’s about 2013

The proposal is a hangover of old law whereby you as a consumer proposed insurance to the insurer and they accepted the policy based on what you proposed. That was a rough and ready, but accurate, summary of the position prior to 2013. Post 2013 the law was made much more consumer friendly. Of course, your insurers will be checking your claims record and other claims linked to your address.

Tread earefully at this juncture. The question may be, ‘have you had any insurance claims?’ and that can include a claim for flooding in your house. It could also include a claim on travel insurance. If it is limited to a ‘motor claim’ then even your car being knocked by Mr Magoo’s short sighted grandad in a car park is something insurers can, at a later date, purport to find extraordinarily interesting.

One could ask whether or not an ordinary consumer would regard such an incident as relevant, so you do not mention it. You then pay your premium, having forgotten about the car park incident. Then your motorbike is stolen. So, after a number of questions all of which are designed to stop your claim, your insurer states, ‘you recklessly failed to declare a claim so we will void your policy’, if they succeed, you will be carrying that voidance for the rest of your days.

Wriggle out of paying

The real test is not what your insurers tell you, but was your failure to disclose reckless or a ‘deliberate misrepresentation’ – and those are very powerful words in the English legal lexicon.

Reckless means the willing taking on of an action, knowing the fact that what you are doing is wrong and in the circumstances is reasonably known to you to carry on with that risk. It is a very big leap from, ‘I genuinely believed this “accident” to be irrelevant,’ to imputing to you the knowledge of an insurance underwriter.

The words ‘deliberate misrepresentation’ bear their ordinary meaning. And stronger yet, the insurers will have to show they did not check the databases to which they all have access. Also, if they wish to carry on with the avoidance they will have to get an employee, in my opinion, to perjure themselves – a step which even the dodgiest of insurers would be reluctant to take.

However, many insurers will still try to wriggle out of paying so if you have a claim on your own insurance do not presume your insurers will honour their end of it. Be cynical.

If you crash your bike, you may wonder why the insurers are suddenly interested in your home bike security. They are looking for an escape route, so be on your guard.

Andrew Dalton

Ride Magazine February 2020