Footballers, fast cars and the law

Allianz Insurance were involved in a long running credit hire case with England Footballer Darren Bent. The footballer hired an Aston Martin DB9 from credit hire company Accident Exchange after an accident in February 2007. This incurred charges of some £63,406, being £573.28 per day plus VAT for the car, which Darren Bent sought to recover from Allianz. Allianz insured the van which was owned by Highways and Utilities and which had been involved in a collision with Mr Bent's Mercedes.

Over a series of court appearances, Allianz argued that these charges were unreasonable. The Court of Appeal found that Mr Bent was not entitled to claim for a seven-day hire rate and should be limited to a lower 28 day rate. The Court ruled that a discount of 12% on the seven day rate was appropriate as it reflects the cheaper longer term hire charges. This meant the Mr Bent could not recover the full £63,406 but received an increase in the award from the County Court decision.

Although Mr Bent received an increase in the assessment of the damages, this was down to the individual assessment made by the Judge. In the future, the Courts will no longer be seeking to assess a 'spot rate' at the higher end of average but will determine a basic hire rate by finding one objectively assessed figure referable to the type of reasonable vehicle hired.

Martin Saunders, divisional claims manager at Allianz Insurance commented that the "judgment has successfully achieved our aim of setting a precedent for future credit hire cases. The principles which have been laid out in this case have a significant impact on the future of credit hire cases and the result represents a positive outcome for the insurance industry".

It is likely that those undertaking rates reports will need to read and digest this decision and make amendments to the way in which reports are prepared in future.

The Court of Appeal heard the case of Pattni v First Leicester Buses 2011 at the same time as the Darren Bent case.