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Am I insured to drive around the Arc de Triomphe?

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September 26, 2008
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arc de triompheOne of our colleagues came into the office today and was telling us about a holiday in Paris. In the course of the conversation she mentioned that a tour guide at the Arc de Triomphe had told her that no car insurance policy in the world was valid on the crazy ten-lane, twelve exit roundabout / junction that encircles the monument.

This sounded a little unlikely. Even though the junction is clearly more dangerous than most, insurance works on the basis of pooled risk, so it would be highly unusual, and probably the thin end of the wedge, if insurers started singling out even one dangerous junction and excluding cover.

What’s more, the policies we offer which provide Europe-wide car insurance cover don’t have any such specific exclusion attached to them, so the worldwide claim of the guide was definitely wrong. Some more research was in order.

Checking the internet, there were a lot of other folk who had been told the same by the Parisian guides, and repeated it on their blogs or sites, but no citation of a verifiable source. So I obtained a copy of a policy document from Macif, the largest French car insurance company. Sure enough, there are no specific exclusions listed there, so I made some further enquiries.

It turns out the the truth is rather more prosaic, but no less interesting. Owing to the complexity of the road system around the Arc de Triomphe, the insurers have an agreement to settle all claims on a knock-for-knock basis, with each company bearing 50% of the total loss. This is to avoid the protracted disputes and legal challenges, which would arise when trying to determine who was at fault for the accident.

In fact this is no different to what happens in many situations, in this country and abroad, where fault is hard to determine, or where the expense of determining who was at fault would not be worthwhile.

So, simply, the story is a myth, presumably either something has been lost in translation, or the French tour guides are having fun telling stories to the tourists.

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