Charlie Whelan is not very happy. His partner has had a crash and their insurer seems keener to wrap them in bureaucracy than to provide assistance

I can't recall ever having to claim anything on m ...

Charlie Whelan is not very happy. His partner has had a crash and their insurer seems keener to wrap them in bureaucracy than to provide assistance

I can't recall ever having to claim anything on my car insurance. I may have claimed for a smashed side window - one of the hazards of living in Peckham - but certainly never for an accident.

When my partner was hit in the back bumper by a coach at Gatwick airport when trying to pick me up the other day I had no cause for concern except over her well-being. Why should I? I had seen all the adverts on telly and got the AA to sort out the insurance for me. No problem. At least, that's what I thought until we had to make a claim.

The AA had signed us up for Churchill and I knew it must be OK because of that great advert with all the nodding dogs. My partner rang up and would have got more sense from a nodding dog. The first problem was, although she and I have lived together for 20 years, have a joint mortgage and bank account, we are not married. The car was registered in my name and the insurance in hers and, unless you've tied the knot, insurance companies can't cope. It took a full two and a half-hours for it to agree that this was OK, but that was only after we had furnished a photocopy of our cheque book. Goodness knows how someone without access to a photocopier or a boss who didn't mind you spending the day on the telephone would cope.

When the accident happened I wasn't too concerned about lack of transport for a few days because the insurance we had guaranteed a hire car.

What I didn't realise was that you first have to have the car inspected by a garage chosen by the insurance company and you can't just go to your local garage to have the repair done there, that would be too convenient. Eventually, a few days after the accident, its garage came to take the car away and that was the last I saw of it. Trying to talk to the insurance company was not easy. On one occasion I waited over 45 minutes on its answering machine. Still no courtesy car and no word from the garage. Apparently, if the car is a write-off you don't get one.

A full week passed before a letter came through telling us the car was indeed a write-off even though it seemed in perfectly good nick to me and just to add insult to injury Churchill offered us £950 for it.

I couldn't believe that I had been paying fully comprehensive insurance for a car that was worth so little - it could have told me it wasn't worth it.

If Churchill were a public company then I suppose people would say: "What do you expect?" But it isn't. It is a private company operating in a highly competitive market.

I guess it relies on the fact that people like me just carry on paying for years without ever thinking about it. I do, however, have a choice; and so I will now move all my insurance elsewhere.

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