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"Well, I thought he was insured ....."

We all know that driving a car without insurance is a very serious offence, and if we are caught there is a very fair chance that we can lose our driving licences. Did you know, though, that you could lose it even if you were not driving it, and were not even in charge of it?

This is been the law since 1988 and yet a huge number of drivers are still unaware of it. If you lend your car to someone else, and that person, either purpose or by accident, turns out to be uninsured then you can be prosecuted for allowing a vehicle to be on the road without insurance. You may have asked this person whether or not insurance was in place, and been emphatically informed that there was; you may think this person to be the most trustworthy individual on Earth who would never dream of driving without insurance; the driver may well be convinced, mistakenly, that he or she was insured to drive the car; none of this matters as far as your guilt or innocence is concerned; all that the court will be interested in will be two questions;

(1) did you know that this person was going to drive your car;
(2) if you did know, would you have given permission?

What this means is that if you knowingly allowed a person, who it subsequently turned out was not properly insured, to drive your car you would be guilty of the offence. No amount of pleading that you didn't know that there was no insurance in place would make any difference to this, the onus is upon you to make absolutely certain that, at the very minimum, third-party cover had been taken out. Your only defence would be to accuse the driver of taking the car without your permission, in which case that person could well face serious charges relating to this.

If you had to answer a case like this in court you could face a fine of up to £5000, plus between six and eight points on your driving licence; a typical penalty is £200 fine plus six points for a first offence. The magistrates may, or may not, be impressed if you swear by everything that is holy to you that you were convinced that the person was insured to drive the vehicle, and they may, or again may not, show some lenience but you would still find yourself convicted of a criminal offence.

The cause of a great deal of misunderstanding is that many people believe that if they are insured fully comprehensively for another vehicle they are automatically also insured to drive any vehicles that they do not own. This is something which varies tremendously from one insurer to another; some allow it, so stipulate that the cars can only be the maximum engine size, some stipulate that it does not refer to family members or anyone else living within the same household. Drivers under a certain age are often excluded, as are those who are 'named drivers'. There have you fact been efforts at government level to take away this type of cover completely from all car insurance policies, but this has so far been strenuously resisted by the insurance industry.

In order to protect yourself, if you are thinking of allowing someone else to drive a vehicle that you own it is essential that you check that person's insurance documents very carefully; and if in the slightest doubt you could always insist that the driver immediately buys some short term car insurance to cover the period of the loan. At a pinch this could be third-party  only cover, which would ensure that the driver complied with the law, but an upgrade to fully comprehensive cover  would not be terribly expensive  and your car would then be protected in the event of it being damaged in an accident.

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