When it comes to getting car insurance, having a disability can make things seem impossibly complicated. Not every disabled person wants to use the Motability scheme and yet if you try to go it alone you risk getting charged way over the odds. What do you need to know to get a fair deal and how should you expect to be treated? When are questions about your disability reasonable and when can you refuse to answer? Knowing the score can save you a lot of money.
Know Your Rights
In the UK, all companies offering insurance should be registered with the Financial Services Authority (FSA). If you are offered a cheap deal through an unusual route, such as email, you should check to make sure this is the case. FSA registration means that companies have certain obligations to their customers, and that includes you.
If you look for insurance specially targeted at disabled people you may be charged too much. Look first at a company’s standard policy. The company may claim that your disability means you are not eligible for this because, statistically, you are at a higher risk of having an accident. You can ask to have the risk factors explained to you. If your doctor agrees that they don’t apply in your case, they can write a letter explaining this, and the insurance company cannot charge you more.
Insurance companies cannot refuse to cover you because you have a pre-existing condition. They can charge you more for this, but extra charges should only apply to matters relating to that condition. If there is no risk of your disability being a factor in an accident, you should not be charged more, and if you have an accident for an unrelated reason then any increase in your premiums should be the same as a non-disabled person would have to pay.
Mental Illness and Learning Disorders
Getting car insurance if you have mental health problems can be complicated in the UK because there is no national standard regarding how applicants should be treated. The good news is that this means some insurance companies do not consider mental illness to be a risk factor at all, though they may still factor in things like medication and time spent in hospital.
If you have no trouble getting your license, and if your license is clean, you should be able to find a company willing to insure you at the standard price. This also applies if you have a learning disorder. For example, if you have trouble understanding some signs because you are dyslexic, but an examiner decides you are a good enough driver to compensate, an insurance company should not list your dyslexia as a risk factor.
Understanding Your Policy
When you negotiate a car insurance policy, the insurance company should present you with two documents known as Keyfacts documents. One of these will describe your policy and the other will provide general information about the company’s policies. Do not sign a contract without seeing these. Compare them carefully – this is your chance to determine whether or not you are being treated fairly.
If some of the information on the Keyfacts document describing your policy is described as ‘advice’, this means that it should have been individually tailored for you. If you later find out that you have received a poor deal, this advice is the part you can challenge in court. The insurance company has a legal obligation to make sure that any advice it gives you is of the best quality.
Sealing the Deal
After all this, how can you be sure you’re getting the best deal? The answer is to shop around. Some insurance companies may imply that you have an obligation to accept their services after they have gone to the trouble of preparing advice for you. This is not true. Don’t be bullied – if you feel awkward about it, you can tell them outright at the start that you plan to speak to a number of companies before making your final decision.
Another way to check whether or not you are being offered a good deal is to speak to an independent insurance advisor. Some banks offer the services of such advisors to their customers for free. You can also get help from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
If your insurance policy is challenged in the aftermath of an accident, you can go to the financial ombudsman for help. You have as much right to a fair insurance policy and fair treatment as any non-disabled person, and the law is on your side.