I recently bought a car in UK and I subscribed a new car insurance. I did my best to answer all the questions with accuracy. However, I cannot remember very well when was my last claim and the previous insurance company (which was abroad) doesn't have that information anymore. I believe my last claim was about 20 years ago, so when subscribing the new insurance I claimed my last claim was 20+ years ago. What happens if in reality it was 19 years ago? Unfortunately, I have no way to verify that. Does that mean in case of an accident, the insurance wouldn't cover? Would that mean the third party would ask me to pay for the damage instead? Also, there were silly questions like if I use the car for social purposes only. I normally use it for social purposes, as I take the train for work. But let's suppose one day there is a train strike and I have to take the car for work. Then let's suppose that day I have an accident... so what happens? Does that mean the insurance doesn't cover? They asked me to install a device on the car to monitor my usage: does that mean that if I use the car for work only once, then they don't cover any other accident even when using the car socially?
The insurer can avoid the claim for a qualifying misrepresentation
The remedy that is available depends on whether the qualifying misrepresentation is either (a) deliberate or reckless, or (b) careless. If it is deliberate or reckless, the insurer may avoid the contract, refuse all claims and retain the premium. If the misrepresentation is merely careless, the insurer may only avoid the contract if it can show that it would not have entered into the contract of insurance at all had the insured complied with its section 2(2) duty. In those circumstances the insurer must return the premium. If the insurer would still have entered into the contract but on different terms, or would have charged a higher premium, then proportionate remedies as more commonly encountered under the provisions of the Insurance Act 2015 apply.
Your misrepresentation that your last accident was more than 20 years ago when it was 19 years ago is careless and the insurer must prove that they would not have offered you car insurance if you hadn’t made that mistake. They aren’t going to be able to do this and they are unlikely to try.
However, if it was last year then that starts to look deliberate or reckless, if so, you have no insurance. You might convince a judge that it was mere carelessness if the claim was minor and you car was off the road only for a day or two. If the insurer can show that it never offers insurance to people who make such a disclosure, then you have no insurance. More likely is that they would have charged you a higher premium or excess or both - you are insured but you owe them the difference.
“Social purposes” will be defined in the policy
Particularly since it’s a weird term. Most policies would use “private use” or “commercial/business use”. Driving to and from work would normally be “personal use”, driving for work would be commercial.
Usually within those definitions there are reasonable exceptions. For example, personal use might include not more than X number of business use per year.
Now, this type of situation is unlike the past-crash data because it is a representation of your intentions and no one can accurately predict the future. However, insurance contracts almost alway contain an obligation for the insured to inform the insurer of changed circumstances that increase risk. So, if you start using your car for business, you have to tell the insurer and they may adjust your premium. However, if you had been using it for business and stopped, you don’t have to tell them because the change reduces the risk.
I believe that you are overthinking this. An error, made in good faith, saying that your most recent claim was 20+ years ago when it was actually, say, 18 years ago is not likely to be material. That is, ad accurate answer probably would not have changed their willingness to take your business or affected the rate charged significantly. What they are after is an estimate of how oftne you have made claims in the past, and thus how likely you are to make them in the future.
Similarly, that "social use" question is intended to ask if you regularly and routinely use the car for commuting, or for actual business purposes (say as a delivery driver). An occasional unforeseen "non-social" would not void your policy. Checking "social only" if one has an hour-long commute by car every day might. The reason for this question is that someone who uses the car for commuting is in it more hours and drives more miles, and thus statistically has a higher chance of an accident or other claim, and so might pay a higher rate.
Also, there were silly questions like if I use the car for social purposes only. I normally use it for social purposes, as I take the train for work. But let's suppose one day there is a train strike and I have to take the car for work. Then let's suppose that day I have an accident... so what happens? Does that mean the insurance doesn't cover?
Broadly speaking there's the following classes of use:
Social Domestic & Pleasure - Normal day to day driving. Shopping, visiting friends or family and pleasure driving such as going to the park or on holiday
Commuting - Driving to and from one place of work in a day. Some insurers include driving your car to the train station and leaving it there while you go to work as commuting.
Business use - Using your car as part of your job, or driving to multiple places of work in one day. There's further sub-divisions of Business use for when you're carrying goods or passengers.
The exact type of journeys covered by the different classes can vary from insurer to insurer with some combining the SDP and commuting aspects. If your insurer differentiates between the two then SDP-only cover would not include driving to work, even one-off occurrences. This doesn't invalidate your insurance in general - just for the times you were using it outside of the covered purposes.
This last aspect is one of the places where the black-box potentially comes in - say some less-than-honest person tried to save a few quid by ticking the SDP-only option but commutes anyway. They then have an accident whilst on the commute, the insurance company looks at the usage data and determines that they were making regular journeys at the start and end of the day, Monday-Friday and it was one such journey they had the accident. A little light digging later and voila the insurer finds out they were exceeding the coverage and they're on the hook for the cost of the claim - Ouch.
It's worth noting here that you likely aren't uninsured in a criminal sense - the insurer will still be considered the insurer of record for purposes of the Road Traffic Act and will have to pay out any third party liabilities. They can decline any first party liabilities however - and may pursue you civilly to recoup the costs they've paid out to the third party.
However, I cannot remember very well when was my last claim and the previous insurance company (which was abroad) doesn't have that information anymore. I believe my last claim was about 20 years ago, so when subscribing the new insurance I claimed my last claim was 20+ years ago. What happens if in reality it was 19 years ago? Unfortunately, I have no way to verify that. Does that mean in case of an accident, the insurance wouldn't cover?
You're fine - firstly an accident that far back is unlikely to qualify as a material fact, i.e. something that affects either the price of the policy or the decision to insure you at all, and even if it did they would have to show that you deliberately misled them as to that fact for it to have major consequences Otherwise the most likely scenario is be required to pay the difference in premium. In twenty years of insuring cars in the UK I don't think I've ever been asked about accident history going back further than 5 years and most insurers will only retain the records for 7-10 years in any event.
If you have not been insured with the same company since the claim I doubt they even have your data or the claim data anymore. At best they would keep it 10 years while they can delete it after only 6 if they want. A lot changes with reporting systems in insurance and most checks don't get carried out until after the fact when in reality they really should be liable to getting that information themselves before insuring you.
Responsibility should fall on you both to come to an agreement, which is what your contract becomes but unfortunately we sign it away in the small print.
If its been 20 years, you can be sure by making a Subject Access Request to your old provider and they will respond with all\if any data they still hold about your claim. I'm guessing stuff was still being processed on paper still back then before paperless desk policies kicked in. Give it a try, it doesn't cost you anything and you will know for sure an answer to give them.