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'They Blamed My DOG': The Car Insurance Loophole That Could Cost You Thousands

William from Bristol contacted me this week in relation to a dispute he’s having with his car insurance company - and I think many of you will be able to relate to his ordeal. On 23 February William set off in his car, with his wife and dog, to Dorset for a week away. On the way, William got into an accident, he says it was caused by the other driver involved pulling out in front of him. William drove into the side the car and whilst he, his wife and the dog were unharmed, the damage to the car was enough for it to be 'written off'. William filed an insurance claim and was expecting to receive a full pay-out, as in his mind it was a straightforward open and shut matter. He was wrong – first the other driver contested the claim and said that it was William's fault as he “swerved into him”. William's insurance company then asked further questions - including who was in the car at the time of the incident. The driver responded by confirming both his wife and dog were in the car, and it was following this response that the claim took a major u-turn. The insurance company initially asked how the dog had been restrained in the vehicle. William responded by saying that the dog was laying on the back seat without any restraint as it was not needed. They then wrote to him and stated that they were accepting liability on his behalf as they would not be able to prove that the dog hadn't been the cause of the accident – I think what they meant by this was they couldn't prove that the dog hadn't jumped on William and caused him to swerve. They then put the final blow in by saying that this had therefore voided the insurance meaning he would have to pay for all the damage. From a legal point of view... I always say it, if an insurer can wriggle out of paying a claim they, will so don’t give them any excuse. In Williams' case they've been given an excuse which is probably strengthened by the fact that rule 57 of the Highway Code states: 'When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly’. Despite this, I've told William to fight this as i) he says the dog did not cause the accident and ii) his policy doesn't say anything about being void if animals are not restrained within a vehicle. He can lodge a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service .
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