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Import insurance, a cautionary tale.

Brian Kirby

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I had a chance conversation with a specialist motorhome insurance underwriter this morning.  Import insurance was the subject, and I queried the present position.  He confirmed that it is not possible to obtain UK insurance on a non UK registered vehicle, until that vehicle is actually on UK soil.

I queried whether this applies equally the "non third party" elements of comprehensive insurance, or just to the third party element.  His response was that the elements of comprehensive insurance are indivizible. 

I pressed him on the question of temporary residents' insurance, as obtainable for export vehicles, saying that since this took care of the third party risks, UK insurers could presumably cover the other risks.  His response was negative.

I then referred to the recent correspondence on this forum, saying that such insurance did, nevertheless, appear to be available from various brokers.  He said he, and other, underwriters were aware and concerned that cover notes were being issued on this basis.

His view was that the presence of the temp residents' third party insurance would supercede and invalidate any other insurance, citing the standard fraud prevention clause that excludes multiple insurances for any one article.

He went on to say he had recently been approached by a motorhomer who had relied on a UK insurer's cover note while collecting a motorhome from abroad.  This unfortunate had written off his motorhome with no other vehicle involved.  His subsquent claim had been rejected, because the vehicle was unregistered, and had not been in UK at the time of the accident.

The motorhomer is now having to sue for compensation under the broker's Professional Indemnity insurance.  He is relying on the cover note for evidence that insurance had been issued, but will have somehow to prove that the broker knew he intended driving the unregistered vehicle home from Europe.

My informant thought his chances reasonable, adding that they had expected such a case would arise sooner or later, and would be following the outcome with interest!  I asked if he knew why he had been approached by someone not insured with his company.  He said the motorhomer was apparently contacting all insurance companies in the field, to cross check the facts regarding insurance of unregistered vehicles while abroad, prior to the case going to court.

I think the poor soul will have more than a bit of a fight - PI insurers ain't car insurers.  I'd expect them to fight the claim like cats in a sack, eventually, and then only if they think they'll sink without trace, making some out of court offer at the eleventh hour to avoid setting precedent.

Not a recipe for peace of mind! 

Therefore, if you're going to make a personal import before June 2007, do check very carefully that you have understood exactly what cover you have, from whom, and where it starts and ends both geographically and in time.  Also, ensure that you have any unusual aspects of your cover, for exemple that the vehicle is to be driven in Europe while unregistered, confirmed in writing before you set off.

If that is not clearly stated on the cover note, or elsewhere, write to the issuer yourself confirming all the relevant facts, and giving them 7 days to respond.  Do set this date comfortably in advance of your trip, so that if you do get a sudden, panic stricken, letter saying your cover is withdrawn, you can make alternative arrangements.

After June 2007 it should be much easier - but you'll still need to be sure the insurer knows and records what you intend doing.

Happy motorhoming!

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