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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: UK Traffic Law
Satisfied Customers: 70197
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice.
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hello, my car was seized by the police on 7/1/12. When I went

Customer Question

hello, my car was seized by the police on 7/1/12. When I went to pick it up on 9/1/12 it wouldn't start so I called the AA, who explained that the damage was caused in the seizure process. The Audi garage have informed me that the car will require a new engine to the cost of £6060. My police contact has informed me that the recovery company has made contact with the garage, but I've no further information. My question is if the recovery company refuse to pay what can I do? Please see my original letter of complaint attached below:

Dear Sir or Madam

When I recovered my car from the Charlton Car pound today (9 Jan 2012) it was making a strange
Noise and had “oil pressure” warning displayed on the dash board. Not being a car expert I didn’t know how critical this was. So I drove a
Few metres up Bramshot Avenue and then the car died.

I then called the AA who identified the problem: my car has a damaged oil sump. I did not have this problem before it was taken to the pound.
The AA officer (Rob Jeffries, XXXXXXXXXXX kindly spoke to one of the officers at Charlton Car Pound (Clayton Little) who informed us that the
damage had occurred “whilst being loaded onto a recovery truck” and noticed a large amount of oil spilled underneath where my car had been parked.
Note: my car had just been for a service with the Audi garage 5 days prior and in any case when the vehicle was seized I was driving it
and now it’s not drivable. See AA report attached.

I’m just writing to initiate contact as to how to proceed as I took my car to the Audi garage for repairs which are estimated at £500-£1000.
Once I get the final invoice I will forward this on to the necessary person or persons.

Please provide a contact liaison that I can deal with during this process.

FYI The vehicle was seized due to no insurance which my insurance company have admitted liability
For due to them taking my incorrect address, it is now insured.

Thanks for your help
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: UK Traffic Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 5 years ago.
What exactly would you like to know?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
My question is if the recovery company refuse to pay what can I do?
Expert:  Jo C. replied 5 years ago.

Why was it seized?

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
you are asking me questions that are already answered in my original query. Again I'll copy-paste from my original email:

"FYI The vehicle was seized due to no insurance which my insurance company have admitted liability
For due to them taking my incorrect address, it is now insured."
Expert:  Jo C. replied 5 years ago.
Yes, I'm rather hoping we can summarise whats in your original post.

To be honest, I'm not sure this could have been seized for no insurance only. Their new policy is to crush vehicles uninsured.

Were there any other offences?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Yes, tax expired on 30Nov12, MOT expired in July11, the seizure was due to the insurance, this is what the police told me.

I don't understand the relevance of the reason for the initial seizure or indeed the other offences to my car being ruined in the recovery process. What are you implying?

The facts as I've said are that my car was driving and indeed was serviced 5 days before the seizure, now it requires a new engine.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 5 years ago.
Dont worry about the relevance. We will come to that.

What was the damage exactly and how was it caused?

How did they come to be anywhere near the engine ? If this is a police seizure then it would just involve an independent contractor removing it on a tow truck. They shouldn't have been under the bonnet at all and, in fact, generally do not.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Oil sump damage which caused pressure to release from the cylinders in the engine. My terminology may not be exactly correct: I am not a car expert and I've not received the official report from audi yet.

They tried fixing the oil sump initially, but the car still will not start, so it requires a new engine as a result.

The police told us that it was caused when being loaded onto the recovery vehicle as there was something sticking up, like a piece of metal, on the actual recovery vehicle. The officer said there was a pool of oil under my cars bonnet and that it had already happened on two occasions that week.

The seizure was done by a recovery company.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 5 years ago.
OK. I imagine we probably don't really know at this stage. That is something you need to sort out though because that will be essential.

This is a rather odd case for lots of reasons.

If this is a seizure for no insurance and general non compliance then its very surprising indeed that they released the car although obviously not something to complain about. But they should not have gone anywhere near the mechanics of the car.

The other alternative is that they are making some form of vehicle defect allegation - even if they haven't charged it. If thats right that would explain the release and might explain why they were working on the car.

Either way, the independent contractor will be acting in pursuance of a police power of seizure and investigation and he can use reasonable force to do that. Reasonable force is a question of face. If the car was there for no insurance alone then they shouldn't have been working on it at all. The highest that might be accepted is some damage during towing and maybe some paintwork scratches. If its vehicle defect then more might be tolerated but probably not this amount unless they have an amazing justification for it.

In relation to what you can do you have two options. The first is to complain to the IPCC but I wouldn't bother. They will not regulate the contractor as they are not police officers almost certainly. The second is to just sue in the small claims court.

In relation to your letter before action, its too long and gives them too much information. You need two or three short paragraphs saying no more than that this damage was caused and you ask for the money back.

Regarding Audi, you need to ascertain exactly what they are saying about this. There's no way they can say when it happened. All they can say is how it was caused. Also, find out if they are willing to attend court and give that evidence if necessary.

Hope this helps. Please press accept and then I will answer your follow up questions for free. Your question will not close but I will thereafter provide you with related information free of charge.
Jo C. and other UK Traffic Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I believe they released the vehicle in error in relation to the other tax and MOT issues as the AA engineer made this remark also.

They were not working on the car or going near the mechanics (to my knowledge) I did not suggest this at any point, the car was damaged when it was loaded onto the recovery truck, the recovery vehicle somehow pierced the oil sump and subsequently caused damage to the engine, as is sometimes the case when the engine is drained of oil and pressure (according to the AA).

There were no paintwork scratches the car looked the same as I'd left it. There were no defects beforehand: the car was serviced 5 days prior with no engine faults reported (only minor rear windscreen wiper issues). The car was in excellent condition.

The letter I enclosed was sent to the police complaints officer who passed it on to the recovery company. The police have not provided me with a contact at the company with whom I can pursue, they keep telling me I have to wait for them to contact me which is ridiculous as I need my car back and they've taken over a week and I've still heard nothing from them.

So it seems like the small claims court is my best option as I expected, how would I go about this please?
Expert:  Jo C. replied 5 years ago.
I just need to go offline for a short while but will fully answer your question either later this evening or first thing in the morning. Please do not respond in the meantime as that will send your question to the back of the queue and you may experience a delay. Thank you
Expert:  Jo C. replied 5 years ago.
They may have released it in error. It would explain a lot. You need to get to the bottom of that because the reason for seizure will govern their powes.

Remind me of the cost of putting this right?

Please press ACCEPT
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
What would an error in release explain? I don't think this is relevant. They seized due to no insurance. When I presented a valid insurance cover note they released it, the tax and MOT issues are matter for the DVLA not the police (the police told me).

The cost is £6060 at present (750 to fix sump, 5310 for the engine).

Expert:  Jo C. replied 5 years ago.
I'm just travelling home and using a mobile device and for some reason I can't see your reply. Please just give me 20 minutes and I will get back to you.
Expert:  Jo C. replied 5 years ago.
It is relevant. I've covered that above really. It governs their powers of seizure and therefore what they can do to the car and how much damage would be accepted.

If its over £5,000 then it creeps just over the small claims court remit so costs will be an issue. You can still issue here

but you had really better get the full report from Audi first and ascertain how far they will go. If they are not fully supportive then that is a point to consider as you could face the other sides costs.