Are you insured against Father Christmas?

For insurance purposes, Santa is no different to any other intruder…

By any definition, Father Christmas is an intruder. Possibly one with a large, semi domesticated mammal as an accomplice. So what happens if your property is damaged during his visit? Or Rudolph is injured while navigating your hallway?

Your home insurance policy cover is relevant for both these events. Firstly though, it needs to be established whether or not Santa has actually been invited as a welcome guest or, like a benign burglar, he has just taken advantage of poor security. The answer may lay in the tradition of leaving food for both Santa and Rudolph, typically a carrot and a mince pie. It can be argued that by leaving these items you are tacitly inviting him into your home. A “Santa Please stop here” sign is definitely an invitation!

As an invited guest, there is no cover against him taking anything from you. This is not likely to be an issue given that his purpose is the complete opposite. However, what if he knocks your iphone off its charger and it breaks? Or Rudolph is particularly taken with your Waitrose Essential carrot and causes a particularly fine piece of majolica to topple over? The good news is that such events will almost certainly be covered under the “Accidental Damage” section of your policy.

But what if he is not a welcome guest? The only alternative can be that he is a trespasser, and as such the damage described above could be construed as criminal damage. For a claim to be successful there should be forceful entry and this is where you may find yourself in difficulty. The insurance company may well take the line that Santa’s modus operandi is common knowledge and question you as to what precautions you took with regard to blocking the chimney. It is unlikely that they will accept not having a chimney as an adequate answer. You could then possibly go down the route of suggesting that magic was used in the incident. From an insurance adjusters point of view, magic is rarely used in their reports as a cause, though I don’t want to put you off completely if you are convinced.

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If you do make a claim, believing your loss to be a result of criminal damage, then the insurance company will insist that you notify the police. It will be down to them to decide how to investigate the incident. It is unlikely that you will be able to satisfy them as to forced entry, but it may be worth reflecting a little before presenting the possibility of magic being involved. The courts are no stranger to trials involving magic, however it has been over 300 years since they were common, so finding suitable legal argument may be difficult.

On balance, your claim is more likely to be dealt sympathetically if you do not accuse Santa of breaking and entering.

There is a section on your policy called “Property Owners Liability”. This section protects you from claims following injury or damage from third parties who are on your property and have suffered due to your negligence. The good news is that the cover is in place regardless of whether the third party is there by invitation or not. In short, it does not matter whether Father Christmas was there as a guest or a trespasser, if he or Rudolph injure themselves in your house due to your neglect, they can (and should) claim against you.

In such circumstances, you should take as much detail as possible about the incident, contact details and photographs are ideal. Santa is almost certainly self employed and should be carrying his own liability insurance details, which you should take. You should notify your insurer straight away and, after giving a statement yourself, it will be down to them to handle the claim. If an injury is involved, they may ask for medical (or vets) reports before offering a settlement.

It is not possible to cover all the possible insurance implications surrounding Santa’s visit, but this brief guidance should be enough to reassure you. If you have any questions about any of the above, just have a word with your broker or insurance company – I’m sure they will be delighted to help!

Merry Christmas

 

How to Complain Effectively to Your Insurance Company

Why Complain?

For every complaint an insurance company receives, a lot more potential complaints are not made either through apathy, lack of confidence in the process or just “not getting around to it.”

Insurance companies are big beasts and as such they are inevitably going to get things wrong. I always believed that a true mark of a company was not so much what it had done to generate a complaint, but how it dealt with the complaint and the effort it made to impress a dissatisfied client.

There is little point in telling all your friends and family how bad your experience has been, without telling the company direct. It may seem hard to believe, but without customer feedback the people running the company may never get to be aware just how lousy their systems or service are and therefore never get the chance to improve things.

Obviously your desire to complain is not fueled entirely by altruism, and is instead centred on your desire to be adequately recompensed for whatever mess occurred. This can take the form of financial compensation, putting the administration right or just an acknowledgement of the problem with an apology.

It doesn’t matter why you are complaining or what it is about, the strategy you should use is the same:

  1. Keep it to the point

  2. Keep it polite

  3. Keep it going until you are satisfied

Keep It To The Point

Don’t ramble, repeat or go off on tangents.

When making a complaint, always do it in writing. The only reason for using the phone is to get a name and/or an address to write to. This information should be on policy documents and the company website anyway so I’m even doubtful about using the phone for this purpose!

Before writing the letter, make some notes on what the most important part(s) of your complaint are. These should include:

  • A brief outline of what has happened
  • Your name and policy number
  • Relevant dates
  • Any names you have had contact with and when
  • Details of any promises made to you, when and by whom
  • What you want to put things right
  • An accurate statement of costs you may have incurred
  • oh yeah…put the word “COMPLAINT” clearly at the top of your letter

This list is not exhaustive as each case is different, but these are the main points the company will be looking for.

Once you have made your notes, put them in a logical order and write your letter, use bullet points if you are happy to do so. They are short, punchy and easy to refer back to.

Don’t go on and on about how you feel, or the effect it has had on you and the world in general. If you are upset or annoyed then say it. But just the once. Don’t write paragraphs about how you have a nephew working in insurance and therefore you know all about the product/company/micro fiscal policy etc.. It has no relevance and can possibly slow the process down

Keep It Polite

Never. I mean never, use language you mum would be upset at. Never make it personal, and never threaten (unless it is just pointing out you can take the matter to the ombudsman. Which they really should know already!)

Keep it Going…

Although it is a bit shoddy, some companies may use a standard reply to your first approach. You may feel it is a tad woolly and doesn’t address address your concerns properly. Don’t give up! Take the time to write again, reiterating your points and highlighting where you think they have failed to address them.

Follow the Process

It might be a pain, but if you follow a prescribed process, it will speed things up – eventually! All companies have set complaints procedures and required time limits to do certain things. If a step is missed, it is like playing snakes and ladders and you will be taken back a few places in order to tick the required box.

If there was one “tip” that is more important than any other it is…

Keep a copy of everything…You WILL need it!

Still Not Happy?

You must give your provider the opportunity to resolve your issue. Sometimes though, this just doesn’t happen. If you get to the point where the company flatly rejects your complaint, you can then go to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Do not go to them any earlier, if you do, they will just refer you back to your company as it will be seen as still being a dispute with them.

The Financial Ombudsman Service is independent and free to use. They have a great website http://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumer/complaints.htm which is simply laid out and easy to follow. The biggest downside is that they receive about 5000 enquiries a day so their workload is large. Be prepared to wait several months for the matter to be concluded.