Comprehensive motor insurance covers much more than just car-related incidents. In this continuing series Roy Rodger explains some of the benefits of this wider policy

When a motorist moves up from third party fire & theft (TPFT) to comprehensive cover, he is not only buying wider cover in respect of damage to his car. He also acquires a package of extra benefits, some of which may not be directly related to the car insured on the policy.

Some will be given automatically, for others he will have to pay extra. Typical extra benefits are: personal accident; personal effects; medical expenses; replacement locks; emergency overnight accommodation; windscreen cover; new car cover; and no claims discount protection.

Personal accident
This cover is usually available only on private car policies in the name of individuals, as opposed to companies or firms.

The benefits are generally modest - £2,500 for death or loss of limbs or eyes, and no weekly benefits. The death or loss has to be as a result of the accident and occur within three months of the accident.

Cover applies to the policyholder and spouse while in any car - not just the car on the policy - either as a passenger or as a driver.

There is no mention in any of the wording

I have seen that the policyholder has to be travelling or driving legally. Should we assume this?

Benefits are treated in the same manner as life assurances and personal accident policies. In other words, payments are made in addition to any compensation paid to the injured person by, say, a guilty third party or by any other policies effected by the policyholder.

Exclusions
As you would imagine, there are several exclusions.

There is an age limit of 75. I think this is a little harsh, given the fact that only low capital benefits are provided. It can be embarrassing when a 75-year-old rings up and asks for a premium reduction as he has lost his personal accident benefits.

If there is more than one car insured, only one benefit is paid. If I have two cars insured and I am unfortunate enough to sustain a serious injury while driving one of them, I would be able to recover the personal accident benefit only under one of the policies.

Is this fair? I have paid a premium for each car and each premium includes a premium for personal accident.

Another exclusion is if the person killed or injured was over the limit for drink or under the influence of drugs. This is about as close as the market gets to a universal drink/drugs exclusion.

A literal interpretation of one company's wording has the effect that, even if the policyholder was not driving, but was over the limit, he would not be paid. I hope this is a mistake.

Suicide and attempted suicide are also exclusions.

Personal effects
Personal effects is frequently the subject of claims and the cover creates a number of problems for customers and insurers. The title of the section also varies among insurers. It covers: personal belongings; clothing and rugs; personal possessions; clothing and personal belongings; rugs; coats; and luggage.

They all give a flavour for what is meant to be covered. Basically, it is whatever you may have in the car other than money, stamps, tickets, documents or securities. Also excluded are goods or samples carried in connection with any trade or business - it is not intended to be a goods in transit cover. (Pens, laptops and notebooks are not regarded as goods or samples.)

If the car is an open top model, items are covered against theft only if they are stolen from a locked boot or locked glove compartment. There may be other, more general exclusions, or specific ones relating to such items as mobile phones.

Most claims occur from thefts, but articles damaged in an accident would also be covered - for example, a newly-purchased television shunted off the back seat.

The limit is usually low on this section, around £150. Theft claims may be subject to the theft excess, depending on how the policy is worded.

A further disincentive to claiming is that claims affect no claims discount. Under this section, it is not just the policyholder's property that is covered. If a friend's coat is stolen from the car the insurers will pay the friend, as long as the policyholder agrees.

Medical expenses
Not many people seem to know about medical expenses cover. Many confuse it with compensation payable under the third party section or with emergency treatment fees.

If any person in the car, including the driver, is injured in an accident, the policy will pay medical expenses up to an agreed limit, usually £150. This is irrespective of who is responsible for the accident. For example, if a driver shunts the car in front and breaks his own teeth on the steering wheel, the £150 could help with his dental work. Similarly, it could pay for physiotherapy, or a private consultation.

I have to say that I am not a great fan of any of the above covers. In each case the benefits are too low to satisfy the customer when he makes a claim and, in the case of personal accident and medical expenses, the customer usually doesn't even know he has the cover.

With personal effects, there are many claims and they are usually complicated by whether the insured acted reasonably, by whether there are other insurers involved and whether the no claims discount should be disallowed or not.

For each of these covers, there is a more suitable non-motor market where a policyholder can buy higher and more extensive cover, leaving the motor risks to the motor underwriter.

Question 1
The difference between comprehensive and third party, fire and theft is:

a.Collision damage cover is added to fire and theft

b.The car is covered against "all risks" and a range of extra benefits is added

c.Any licensed driver may drive the car

d.The no claims discount scale is extended.

Question 2

The personal accident section of a comprehensive policy:

a.Covers death/loss of limbs/eyes

b.Temporary total disablement

c.Accidents to anyone travelling in the car

d.Contains a drink/drugs exclusion.

Question 3
The personal effects section:

a.Covers clothing stolen from the seat of an open top car

b.Covers only the policyholder's effects

c.Claims do not affect no claims discount

d.Usually has a limit of £150.

Question 4
The medical expenses section pays for:

a.Claims for emergency treatment at the scene of the accident

b.Compensation for passengers injured by the driver's negligence

c.Medical, dental or physiotherapy treatment for any person in the car, including the driver

d.Medical bills incurred abroad.

  • This week's CPD is kindly contributed by Roy Rodger, technical consultant to the Motor Investigation Agency, 1 Old Hall Street, Liverpool, L3 9HF. Tel: 0151 236 7878; mobile: 07931 511 258: fax: 0151 236 6464. www.mia-ltd.com .

    CPD articles are edited by RW Associates specialists in training, competence and compliance.

    Email: ruy-lopez@rwassociates.co.uk

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    Last week's answers: 1C, 2B, 3C