CONSUMER: Phantom accident claim leaves Southsea pensioner blacklisted by insurance claim

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A Southsea motorist was driven round the bend when he discovered a phantom accident claim had left him blacklisted and without insurance cover.

The first indication that Southsea pensioner Lesley Willis learned something wasn’t quite right was when he received a notification that his motor insurance was up for renewal.

A Renault Captur similar to the one owned by Lesley Willis

A Renault Captur similar to the one owned by Lesley Willis

John Lewis invited him to reinsure his Renault Captur car with them for a further year, but when he contacted them they refused him cover in what turned out to be a bizarre eight-month case of mistaken identity.

Lesley, 84, was completely dumbfounded when they gave him the brush-off. They told him he’d have to go elsewhere to insure his car, but ignored his request for an explanation.

Then last September, insurance underwriter Covea Insurance stepped in to add to the confusion. They rang him to insist he’d been involved in an accident and promptly sent him a claim form to fill in.

When he got in touch to find out what it was all about, their response was to send him a further series of claim forms.

He said: ‘When I got annoyed with them and asked for an explanation they sent a photographer down. He took 12 photographs of my car and confirmed the vehicle hadn’t been in an accident.

‘A couple of weeks later they sent an engineer to look at the car which is apparently routine. He had a look round, lifted the bonnet up and goodness knows what else and also confirmed the car hadn’t been involved in any road traffic incident.

‘I thought that would be the end of it.’

But in mid-October his confidence was soon dented when despite all the evidence to the contrary, a copy from Covea of a witness statement popped through his letterbox.

He knew right away the insurer had been barking up the wrong tree when the witness claimed she was following close behind an orange brown Renault Captur. His car is black and grey. It was virtually impossible to confuse the starkly different colour combination.

In the meantime an anxious Lesley tried to get car insurance from alternative providers. However, his new-found composure turned to anger when despite his considerable best efforts, they all turned him down.

Unbeknown to him the phantom claim had been recorded on an accident database, the details of which were then made available to all motor insurers.

He was resigned to the fact his motoring days could be over as he’d virtually become uninsurable. Then against all the odds an offer suddenly appeared from insurer Liverpool Victoria, but it turned out to be a wallet-busting saving grace.

Instead of the usual premium coming in at around £700, they’d only insure him if he forked out a hefty £1,334, almost double what he normally expected to pay.

Lesley fired off a number of letters to the insurer asserting in no uncertain terms it was high time they got their act together. He didn’t accept he should be penalised for their bizarre identity mistake.

Weeks went by, making it obvious that no one on the insurer’s payroll was in listening mode.

His anger then turned to fury when in December a surreal letter arrived from a Covea third party claims specialist.

It said they’d been in touch with the other party’s insurer to confirm his car was undamaged and the witness had got their facts completely wrong,

However, Lesley was stunned when it went on to say ‘given the circumstances’ there was no way he could resist the claim against him.

Enraged, he battled on for a further four months trying to get the unsolvable situation sorted before deciding to call in Streetwise.

We got on to Covea and insisted that there wasn’t a shred of evidence Lesly was ever involved in an accident with the other party. We asked for an explanation why they were taking him for a ride.

They were treating him unfairly by acting as judge and jury in their own case, leaving him exposed for months to an outrageous premium penalty.

It was up to them to prove Lesley had been involved in the accident or back down.

Within a few days Covea made contact to confess the matter had been hopelessly bungled and offered him a fulsome apology.

A spokesperson said: ‘We’d like to thank you for bringing this to our attention.

‘Having reviewed the claim fully, we completely understand Mr Willis’s frustration.

‘We agree that the claim against Mr Willis was a case of mistaken identity and have deleted it from our system.

‘We regret that it took us so long to do so; to rectify this, we have alerted his new insurer that the claim has been removed from the claims log and they have confirmed they will refund any premium due.

‘We have also awarded compensation for the inconvenience we caused and given a full apology.’

A much-relieved Lesley told us his battle with the firm was finally over and thanked us for our help.

‘I just felt like punching the air in frustration,’ he said, ‘because I just wasn’t getting anywhere.

‘Everything was just so cut and dried.

‘All they kept doing was sending me forms to fill in which I said I couldn’t do because I hadn’t been involved in any accident.

‘They phoned to apologise and I’ve since received a letter from them to say they were giving me £250 in compensation for all the worry and distress.

‘They also confirmed they’re contacting my insurance and would phone me to confirm when a refund of the excess premium had been arranged.’