The Ice Claims Cometh

One of the best or worst winters (depending on your viewpoint!) is now but a memory, but then, you never know with the English weather!

The most widespread snow for 18 years swept its pristine and beautiful whiteness over the countryside in February, bringing joy to thousands of youngsters who had a surprise few days off school as well as the young at heart who took to the hills on skis, sledges or tin trays. Gardens and street corners sprouted snowmen and all sorts of other icy sculptures.

But for motorists, it was a different story. On Monday 2 February, many found themselves driving in snow and ice for the first time. Thousands took heed of the AA's advice to stay at home because traffic levels were less than usual. And many who were driving sought the AA's guidance on how to drive in such conditions. But even the most careful often came to grief on icy slopes and bends.

Meanwhile, an AA / Populus poll of 11,000 drivers reported that nearly three-quarters of drivers (72%) said unexpected ice was their worst motoring fear.

The AA Car Insurance claim line in Cardiff had one of its busiest weeks ever with calls almost double those over the same week in 2008.

Says Paul Jones, who runs the AA claims centre: "Fortunately, our snow didn't come until later in the week so on the Monday, our staff were able to get to work. That was just as well because the phones simply didn't stop ringing and by lunchtime, we had taken 60% more calls than we expected and we had registered nearly 900 claims by the end of the day."

Snow stories

A look at the claims records give some interesting results. Analyses of a random sample of 750 claims during the week, for example, showed that at least 44% of were snow and ice related. And of those:

  • 106 (33%) were cars sliding into the back of other cars;
  • 99 (31%) were drivers who came to grief on snow or ice, sliding in to other objects. About a third of these were for hitting a kerb, damaging the wheel. But plenty ended up hitting walls, bollards, trees or in ditches and hedges;
  • 60 (19%) were claims where a car had slid in to a stationary, unoccupied car.
    Sadly, some had abandoned their snowbound car, returning later to find someone else had hit it but not left a note, or had even broken in and stolen things from inside;
  • 53 (16%) were collisions with other moving vehicles.

"Fortunately, because of the slippery conditions, most of these were slow speed bumps and collisions," says Paul. Among them were some which raise a smile or make you feel very sorry for our customer. But the important thing is that we were able to handle the overload and although there might have been a short wait for some callers, all are having their claims properly handled.

"Our role first and foremost is to offer help, advice and a sympathetic ear – often, people are shaken, upset or angry and a caring response can work wonders. We check that they have called the police or ambulance if necessary, and help them decide on the next best course of action. Because AA Insurance is a broker, we then pass the claim on to the company their AA car insurance policy is with. And of course, we are always here to help their claim go smoothly if they need more advice."

Some of the snowy claims in our sample included:

  • One driver had a fire engine slide into him and another explained: "A police car lost control on the ice and crashed into the side of my car"; Three drivers claimed after a bus had skidded into them;
  • Another driver tried to avoid a parked car, hit a road sign, bounced off a tree and still hit the car he was trying to avoid;
  • "The car came straight at me on its roof," said another. "It bounced off my car and ended up back on its wheels. Fortunately the driver wasn't hurt";
  • One claimant had to abandon their car in snow. Returning the next day, 'something large such as a lorry' had completely wrecked their car: "the low-life driver didn't even leave a note," he said;
  • Several claimants ruefully admitted that they had collided with their own garage door on their icy drive;
  • A driver in decided to take the main road to work instead of his usual country road. But the main road had not been gritted and he was among several who skidded on black ice.
  • And one expensive claim was for a customer who lost control going down a steep and icy street "hitting a dozen parked cars on the way".

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