Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.
Q I had a minor accident when I fell off a motor scooter during a holiday in Thailand. I was hospitalised for two days and when I got home claimed for the treatment costs from my holiday insurance. The insurer has flatly refused to pay out pointing to some small print in the policy. Can you help me please?
A You sent me a copy of the policy whereupon I immediately made for the offending small print. Just as I expected, there was an exclusion clause saying that hazardous activities were not covered.
So restrictive were the exclusions that about all you could do on your holiday was walk from your hotel room to the beach and back.
The policy would cover hazardous activity provided you’d notified the insurance company in advance and paid an additional premium.
Normally if you had reached deadlock in a dispute with an insurer, I’d advise you to take the issue up with the Financial Services Ombudsman.
To be honest I can’t advise you take that step with your claim as your chances of success are about as great as finding a nudist colony at the North Pole.
It all boils down to making sure you read the policy carefully before you jet off and you have bought adequate cover for your needs.
It may appear unfair, but insurers are not motivated by benevolence. All they are concerned with is risk, and if you raise the risk stakes then they’ll expect you to tell them in advance so that they can slap you with a hefty hike in premium.
Q We had our house redecorated recently and one of the workman accidentally knocked over a can of paint on an unprotected area of carpet. His firm has agreed to pay compensation, but as the carpet wasn’t new they won’t give us the full replacement cost. Is this right?
A I’ve no doubt that if someone working on your property carelessly causes damage then you’ll be in line for compensation.
But just because the firm’s decorator may have been negligent doesn’t automatically mean you can claim the cost of a brand new carpet to replace the old one.
You didn’t say how long you’d had the original carpet, but if a brand spanking new one puts you in a better position than you would have been with the old one, then you won’t be entitled to the total cost of the replacement.
This is because you would have had the benefit of a number of years wear in your old carpet, and to replace it with a new one would amount to betterment.
There may still be some circumstances where you might be justified in asking for full compensation though. One such circumstance might be if the carpet is fitted and it wasn’t possible to replace it with a carpet of similar age and wear and tear.
In that case you’d still be entitled to the full replacement cost.
Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.