Another (sad) tale from the Court. by raistlin (Page 1 of 2)


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raistlin
Dealt with a sad case today.

The defendant was a man aged 32 and was charged with causing death by dangerous driving. Clearly, this is an "indictable only" offence and we sent it straight to the Crown Court but as usual, not before the prosecution had demonstrated that there was a case to answer.

It seems the bloke was driving his Ford Focus with a friend in the passenger seat. The car went out of control and hit a tree head on.

The passenger died at the scene and the driver is now in a wheelchair, having suffered spinal injuries, classified as paraplegic.

The defendant had stated in his initial interview that the car "just went out of control". However, the traffic investigation officer was concerned because the skid marks at the scene indicated an unusually high speed bearing in mind a witness statement that the car in question had been stationary at traffic lights about 100 yards before the point of impact.

The bloke's insurance company were also concerned and had the car examined, finding several examples of modifications which hadn't been declared including non standard wheels, lighting, brake disks, exhaust etc.

We heard that the insurance company were about to commission an in depth examination of the vehicle but the Police by that time had arranged examination by the forensic science service, on instruction from the CPS.

We had sight of the report by the forensic science officer which was very comprehensive. One of the things they did was refer the chassis number to Ford who provided them with detailed performance figures which included, amongst other details, the rated power and torque of the engine, both at the wheels and at the flywheel. The FS people removed the engine and ancillaries and ran it on a test bench under conditions specified by Ford where it was found to be capable of producing approximately 21% more power and torque than it should have been able to, the values being corrected for humidity, temperature and ambient air pressure. The precise readings were in the report but I can't remember the numbers, just the calculated percentage.

The engine was dismantled and all internal components were found to be standard. The author of the report concluded that the performance increase was due to "A significant change in the standard fuelling, timing and ignition parameters." That is to say, a re-map. The author of the report further concluded that the performance of the car, prior to the collision, was "Significantly beyond the capabilities of the brakes and suspension."

We understand that the appropriate EPROM was extracted from the engine management system and will be compared data bit by data bit, with the standard data, provided by Ford. That will be provided if required, when the case is heard at the Crown Court.

A forensic science officer is considered to be an expert witness and as such, the Court will be entitled to accept his professional opinion as fact.

At a subsequent re-interview, the defendant admitted responsibility for the modifications and told the Police that there was "no way" the re-map could have been discovered within the engine management system as the individual who installed the modification "Guaranteed it was transparent", whatever that means.

The defendant's insurance company, following the publication of the report, have refused to accept liability in the matter, leaving the 32 year old father of five children, paralysed from just below the chest down, with no recompense. The family of the passenger, a 24 year old man with one child, will have to pursue the defendant and possibly his insurers, through the civil Court.

Based upon my experience, the defendant will receive a substantial custodial sentence.

I have to say that, being an engineer myself, on a purely objective basis, the forensic science report made fascinating reading.

On another level, this was a case I wish I hadn't had to deal with. Members of both families were in Court.

Unfortunately, this is not the first case of it's type I've been involved with and I feel sure it will not be the last.
Paul

Cogito ergo sum... maybe?

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Posted 28 Feb 2014, 20:03 #1 

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Mick
(Site Admin)
A very sad tale indeed. All the more reason why any modifications to our own vehicles be reported to the insurance company. Almost any change from factory standard can and will allow the insurance company to refuse liability. Even something as innocuous as a change in wheel size for example, could render the insurance null and void.

Posted 28 Feb 2014, 20:13 #2 


PaulT
Yes, a sad tale. Seems to me that whoever did the remap was aiding and abetting non disclosure to the insurance company.

A little irresponsible of the driver - 5 children and still wants to be a boy racer without making the other necessary changes to support a power increase.

In a rather cold manner this persons actions will now mean that you and I, the taxpayer, will pick up the bill for his family from now on, he having forfeited any money from the insurance company.

Perhaps, any member of this forum should think twice if they have had a remap and not disclosed it to their insurance company - the vehicle examiners seem to do a very thorough job.

Be interested to know the outcome of this.
Paul

That apart Mrs Lincoln, did you enjoy the play

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Posted 28 Feb 2014, 20:28 #3 

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Borg Warner
You know guys that is exactly the scenario I have thought would happen, faced with a big pay out an insurance company will leave no stone unturned. No fancy computers/software to read the ECU (Engine Control Unit) - just stick it on a rolling road or an equivalent. Those people who do not declare such modifications really should read this. It aint worth it.

Gary M.

Posted 28 Feb 2014, 21:57 #4 


Dave Goody
I know this may not be PC on this forum, but can someone copy this to the owners club forum, I don't know how to, as there has been a lot of talk on there about declaring modifications, It may save a lot of heartache for somebody sometime?

Posted 28 Feb 2014, 22:41 #5 

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Mick
(Site Admin)
Dave Goody wrote:I know this may not be PC on this forum, but can someone copy this to the owners club forum, I don't know how to, as there has been a lot of talk on there about declaring modifications, It may save a lot of heartache for somebody sometime?


Anybody that wishes to post a link to this topic on the Owners Club forum is welcome to do so but, please be aware that it will, in all likelihood, be summarily deleted by that forums staff.

Posted 28 Feb 2014, 23:56 #6 

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MrDoodles
Sounds like the guy was a dickhead, was driving like a tool and that the extra 21% power, had nothing to do with the accident, but it gives the Insurance Company involved a get out because of the massive claims involved! :(
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Posted 01 Mar 2014, 09:05 #7 

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Borg Warner
MrDoodles wrote:Sounds like the guy was a dickhead, was driving like a tool and that the extra 21% power, had nothing to do with the accident, but it gives the Insurance Company involved a get out because of the massive claims involved! :(


Then the answer is very simple; don't give them the excuse. Pay the extra on the premium.

I have an idea how to get it on the OC.

Gary M.

Posted 01 Mar 2014, 10:17 #8 

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Borg Warner
Mick wrote:
Dave Goody wrote:I know this may not be PC on this forum, but can someone copy this to the owners club forum, I don't know how to, as there has been a lot of talk on there about declaring modifications, It may save a lot of heartache for somebody sometime?


Anybody that wishes to post a link to this topic on the Owners Club forum is welcome to do so but, please be aware that it will, in all likelihood, be summarily deleted by that forums staff.


Done.

Gary M.

Posted 01 Mar 2014, 11:57 #9 


Jumper
MrDoodles wrote:Sounds like the guy was a dickhead, was driving like a tool and that the extra 21% power, had nothing to do with the accident, but it gives the Insurance Company involved a get out because of the massive claims involved! :(


I would have thought that on balance the forensic science officer's findings leave no doubt that the extra 21% power with standard brakes, suspension and steering had rather a lot to do with the accident! Not to mention the triumph of enthusiasm over skill. In which case the insurer not only has every right to decline to indemnify, but indeed has no choice but to do so. If you want an increased performance car either buy one that's rated accordingly or do us all a favour and tell your insurer.

It might be significant that it was only the traffic officer's suspicion of excessive speed, taken together with the witness having seen the car stationary 100 yards before the scene, that led to CPS engaging forensic examination of the engine. All in all it shows there are public officials, or recourse to private organisations, that perform in the public good, although the personal tragedies may be shocking.

Posted 01 Mar 2014, 12:13 #10 


Dave Goody
Borg Warner wrote:
Mick wrote:
Dave Goody wrote:I know this may not be PC on this forum, but can someone copy this to the owners club forum, I don't know how to, as there has been a lot of talk on there about declaring modifications, It may save a lot of heartache for somebody sometime?


Anybody that wishes to post a link to this topic on the Owners Club forum is welcome to do so but, please be aware that it will, in all likelihood, be summarily deleted by that forums staff.


Done.

Gary M.


well done that man!

Posted 01 Mar 2014, 18:18 #11 

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Borg Warner
Thank you but unfortunately it has turned into something of a playground.

Don't understand folk and sometimes I despair, I really do.

When I insured my ZT I told them I had changed the wheels from hairpins to straights, cost me an extra £20, I think. I tell them that I had my licence revoked for medical reasons some 30 years ago - they don't care but if I didn't they would. I also inform them that I have one eye, am a chronic asthmatic and that I have a prosthetic hip, again they don't care, but if I didn't.....

They are not bothered about like for like replacement parts; a hose, a spark plug or a disc.

Gary M.

Posted 01 Mar 2014, 18:28 #12 


Dave Goody
Borg Warner wrote:Thank you but unfortunately it has turned into something of a playground.

Don't understand folk and sometimes I despair, I really do.

When I insured my ZT I told them I had changed the wheels from hairpins to straights, cost me an extra £20, I think. I tell them that I had my licence revoked for medical reasons some 30 years ago - they don't care but if I didn't they would. I also inform them that I have one eye, am a chronic asthmatic and that I have a prosthetic hip, again they don't care, but if I didn't.....

They are not bothered about like for like replacement parts; a hose, a spark plug or a disc.

Gary M.

I see what you mean :cry: I'm afraid I would not take the chance of concealing anything. It's all very well saying who is going to check the engine on some old guys car which is not obviously modified but if the car you hit and total is a brand new Rolls/Ferrari and you kill 2 kids and the parents are after your/and insurance companies blood. I think they just might check every possibility to revoke your insurance.
Dave

Posted 01 Mar 2014, 18:50 #13 


PaulT
BUT this is not the insurance company carrying out the inspection but the CPS.
Paul

That apart Mrs Lincoln, did you enjoy the play

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Posted 02 Mar 2014, 09:21 #14 

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Duncan
This thread prompts me to add another thing. Several insurance companies now include optional extras that are fitted by the manufacturer, as modifications. So technically if you haven't told them that your car has the optional rear blind for example, you haven't told them about modifications.

Now I'm not saying they would then refuse to pay out, but technically they could. More likely, you would find that in the case of a total loss, they would only pay for a car with no extras, not one that matches yours.

Not all companies do this, and it may not be clear that they do. I recently moved to LV because they only want to know about actual modifications as you and I would understand it.
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Posted 02 Mar 2014, 09:27 #15 

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Borg Warner
I think there's a difference to be seen here. A rear blind or walnut dash most likely would not be covered in a total loss but the company may still pay out, but performance enhancing modifications are a different matter and that is where the scrutiny comes in.

Gary M.

Posted 02 Mar 2014, 10:55 #16 


Jumper
Borg Warner wrote:I think there's a difference to be seen here. A rear blind or walnut dash most likely would not be covered in a total loss but the company may still pay out, but performance enhancing modifications are a different matter and that is where the scrutiny comes in.

Gary M.


Correct if I may say so, with a minor caveat. In the event of a total loss (economic or otherwise) the remains, or even the unspoiled, items of kit we call 'mods' would still be in evidence and a valid part of the claim. In most cases receipts will have been retained at purchase (or in some cases even a "How To" done at the time of the mod!) and would be useful in negotiating a settlement that at first seemed paltry. The only limit to this would be the "indemnity range" the underwriters use for a particular model. Members may not be aware of this, and sad to say, members of other clubs have indicated that they think it's a load of rubbish, but cars are covered by an insured indemnity range from basic trade value (say, Glass's lowest) to price guide highest which is the negotiable limit. Companies often pay the max if evidence is available. I'm sure that insurance brokers advertising here will confirm something similar.

With regard to other aspects the usual position is contained in policy wording, which of course everybody reads in full. Don't they?

"You must notify us of any modifications or alterations or performance enhancing changes to the vehicle. In addition any increase of value brought about by changes made to the original manufactures' specification which might affect the value...." (taken from my own insurance documents from a well known and competitive company).

Unfortunately a lot of uninformed comment gets presented as fact and anecdotal opinion abounds, leading to inexperienced readers doing stupid things. As in the OP, horrific consequences can follow. I'm surprised insurance is so cheap.

Posted 02 Mar 2014, 14:55 #17 

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Duncan
My point was this. As you state, the policy wording could say exactly what you say: 'You must notify us of any modifications.....' but these modifications include manufacturers options fitted at time of build, with some insurers. Many people may not realise that a modification isn't just a change to the way the car was built. A car that is precisely as it left the factory, may still be modified in the eyes of some insurers.
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Posted 02 Mar 2014, 15:17 #18 


Jumper
Duncan wrote:My point was this. As you state, the policy wording could say exactly what you say: 'You must notify us of any modifications.....' but these modifications include manufacturers options fitted at time of build, with some insurers. Many people may not realise that a modification isn't just a change to the way the car was built. A car that is precisely as it left the factory, may still be modified in the eyes of some insurers.


Thanks for that. I take your point, but have never come across that distinction. In all my experience manufacturers' options are not considered 'mods' as they are installed at build level and appear on 'build notes' and therefore documented (retrievable).

Also, unless an outside company does the installation (like, say, Cosworth etc.) any incremental performance changes at the factory build would figure in the vehicle title eg. 'GTi' etc. and even possibly the V5. Certainly the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) and reg. no. (relevant info would follow any such changes with personal number changes) would indicate a variation from the norm. in any search.

I'm pretty sure that is the position but would be grateful for any documented info on this.

Edit for a late thought:
Just occurs to me that in the case of 'our cars' and most being owned by enthusiasts, and many doing 'mods', and now presumably insurers being notified of increased possibility of upgrading performance.......

Posted 02 Mar 2014, 16:27 #19 

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Duncan
Yes I was surprised, too. Admiral do make that distinction (that's why I left them) and one other I found while getting quotes (Direct Line I think). It really annoyed me with Admiral as it was totally unclear that they did this until this time last year when their wording changed to make it clear. They told me had always been this way, and I was basically daft for not realising that modified included manufacturers build options.
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Posted 02 Mar 2014, 16:46 #20 


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