My damaged car was written off and scrapped without my permission - what can I do?

My Volvo S60 was recently involved in two accidents within a space of a month, both times involving my 28-year-old son, who is a qualified driver and on the insurance policy. The first time was when the car was parked in a residential street, and when my son came out he noticed that the passenger side was damaged. The car was victim of hit and run accident, and there was no note on the windscreen or any information. The second was when the car skidded during the first bad snow conditions when it was doing 10mph, and hit a brick wall knocking off few bricks.

The car was taken to the garage recommended by the insurance company Churchill. The assessor from Churchill rang to say that the cost of repairing the car was higher than the value of the car, and it has to be written off. He quoted the price, which was much lower than a similar car that I had seen on the web sites, and I told him that it will cost me more to buy the car. He told me that he is on annual leave next week and told me to email details of the websites. He said that he will check his emails, get in touch with me and consider the case.

My wife and my son went to look at the car in the garage, and got a nasty shock to find that the car had been taken away to be scrapped without any one from the insurance company or the garage informing me or seeking my permission. I still have the logbook and personal items in the car that are of immense value and pride, and there was no attempt to inform me about this drastic action. We are all very upset and consider this action highly rude, inconsiderate and illegal. In the meantime they sent me a cheque of £2,900, which was an insult, so I sent the cheque back to the company, and also rang to raise my objection. I was told that this was an interim payment, and depending on the final settlement another cheque would have been posted. I asked why on the letter there was no mention that this was an interim payment. I was told that as far as the insurance company is concerned that this was a settlement, and even the courtesy car which was provided was taken away three days early. Could you please tell me where my right to the ownership ends and where the insurance company's begins? What can I do to get justice?

Asked on 15 December 2010 by RB, Battersea

Answered by Honest John
You need the help of asklucy@honestjohn.co.uk. My superficial view (I don't know all the facts) is that they have taken away and destroyed your property without your permission, so you are entitled to full restitution, but it will be less complicated if you keep your claim down to £5,000 which is the small claims track limit at the county courts. You should have been allowed the option to keep the car and repair it yourself on whatever full and final settlement the insurer was prepared to make. You need to act urgently because rather than take it away to be scrapped I think it will have been sold as salvage and may be in the process of repair by whoever bought the salvage.
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