C43 – The end of the road

A police car had an argument with the C43 today. The C43 lost

By Tim Kendall | 11th February 2011

C43 looking the worse for wear after an impact with a police car

Following an altercation with a police car on a dual carriageway in the Cotswolds, the C43 is looking a bit bruised. One of Gloucestershire Constabulary’s finest attempted a cavalier manoeuvre (in a Focus estate, not the 80s Vauxhall), ricocheting me off his front offside corner, and into the fast lane of the opposite carriageway.

A total loss of control at 65mph was caused by the nearside suspension and steering linkage collapsing on impact, leaving the braking and steering to be done by the forces of nature. Thanks to the heavy lump up front, and assorted metal bits scraping along the tarmac, deceleration was mercifully quick – it came to a halt just before sending me head on into a passing van. Once the sickening metal against tarmac noise stopped, it dawned on me that the car was beached and facing the opposite flow of traffic. It takes a while for the fog of adrenaline to die down, but I now feel like that dog from the old insurance ad – more than lucky. Clearly the outcome could have been much worse.

Granted, it’s not lucky to be in a shunt that isn’t your fault, and to have your pride and joy wrecked, but the fact that I avoided a head-on impact with oncoming traffic on the other carriageway certainly was. I was also pleased that the petrol tanker directly behind us managed to pull up in time before rear-ending the  police dog handlers car that hit me.

I’m in the clear blame-wise, but can’t report full details until appropriate authorities have completed their investigations. I can report that the insurance situation is an abject bloody nightmare. Four days before the accident, I took out a new insurance policy with Footman James, having decided that I’d sunk so much hard-earned into the C43 that it would be a bum deal to end up with what the insurance industry rather imprecisely terms as ‘market value’, in the event of a total loss. I’d therefore ticked the ‘agreed value’  box, so that any payout, if the worst should happen, would reflect my investment in S618UND. Call it foolhardy, but I’d not anticipated two days after the policy paperwork arrived on my doormat, that I’d need to actually use my insurance for the first time in my unblemished driving career.

Problem is, hidden in the small print somewhere is a get-out clause for the insurer – the effect of which is that if you are involved in a smash before they receive your valuation forms and photos as evidence of the car being in splendid order, they revert your payout to market value. The ‘market’ has very little idea of how to value an 11 year-old AMG, less so one that is becoming increasingly rare, and like mine, loaded with unusual options which seem to be sought after by AMG geeks. Net result – a payout offer which was 50% of my agreed value. Ouch. All this because my valuation forms were in the post at the time of the accident and received by Footman James after notifying them of the claim. You would have thought they might give you a few days grace to return the paperwork. Not so – my fault or not, they would not play ball.

A battle of stiffly worded letters followed, as the insurer’s ‘expert’ valuer who assigned a random estimation of market value, offered just £3,250 for the car – a figure that woefully undervalued its true worth. A quick scan of the classifieds after the accident revealed the only C43 that could be had for £3k, was a previously written-off category D example with intergalactic mileage. I subsequently found out that the valuation engineer had second-guessed the value of the car using out-of-date price guides, as the C43 no longer appears in the likes of industry bibles such as Glass’s.

To bolster my crusade, I averaged out asking prices on all the classified adverts for C43s on Autotrader, Pistonheads and Car & Classic. This unscientific, but fairly strong barometer of market value revealed the going rate for a good ‘un to be in the region of £6-7k. Long story short, it took more than five weeks of wrangling to achieve a fair result, and this was only done by reverting to the underwriter and muttering those terrifying words ‘financial ombudsman’ in their general direction. Footman James (the broker), simply had no interest in applying any empathy or sense to what was, after all, an unfortunate series of events totally beyond my control. Moral of the story – think very carefully about who you insure with, and read the small print.

By Tim Kendall
11th February 2011

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