Few things equal the frustration and inconvenience of someone running into your car. It sets off a chain reaction of phone calls, insurance quotes, panel beaters and rental cars, not to mention having to pay the excess on your insurance.
While all of the above is unavoidable, you can make it easier on yourself by following some basic rules.
“Dealing with your car insurance company after a crash can be a challenge, even for the calmest individual,” says Des Fenner, General Manager of Datsun South Africa. “However, it is vital that you don’t lose your cool; you need to be methodical and meticulously record everything that happened. By sticking to the rules, you will increase your chances of a successful claim and may even get your excess back.”
The first thing you need to do after the accident is gather information. The driver who crashed into your car is responsible for reporting the accident to his or her car insurance company. However, you will need to make sure you contact your insurer with all relevant information pertaining to the accident as well. If you don’t report it to your insurer within the prescribed period, you may not be able to claim, even if the accident was not your fault or the damage to your car was negligible. Motorists who cause accidents are sometimes reluctant to report them, so make sure you get their all their details so you can report everything to your insurer and the police.
“You need to try to get complete information on the other party at the accident scene,” Mr Fenner continues. “This includes their name and surname, telephone numbers, address, insurance company name and policy information. Also take note of the registration number of the other vehicle – check this number against the licence disc just in case. If possible, ask for the details of witnesses at the scene of the accident, and gather as much photographic evidence as possible. Most phones have cameras today; pictures are helpful for your insurance company, because they can be used to claim back money from the other party’s insurance.”
Try to notify all relevant parties of the accident within 24 hours. This includes your insurer, the police and the other party’s insurance company. If they don’t have insurance, your insurer will attempt to claim from them directly, but don’t worry – you will still be paid out if you abide by your insurer’s terms and conditions.
The police will determine who is at fault for ticketing purposes, but they may not even issue a ticket. The insurer will make its own determination of fault, which may or may not match the police report.
Try to avoid saying anything that could jeopardise your claim; the less you say the better.
“Stick to conversations about insurance details,” says Mr Fenner. “Trying to discuss or analyse the accident may compromise your claim.”
When it comes to repairs, never go ahead with them on your own; the insurance company will ask you to submit three quotes or may refer you to one of their approved panel beaters. Also make sure that that the insurer has accepted liability before going ahead with repairs. Get that authorisation in writing, and ask the insurer or your broker to email you the confirmation.
“It is important to note that the more expensive your car, the higher the excess will be,” cautions Mr Fenner. “More affordable cars, like the Datsun GO, will be much more affordable to insure than a car with a higher price tag. Furthermore, when you sign up for insurance, you can reduce the cost of your premiums by increasing your excess payment. If you are a careful driver, or drive infrequently, you may want to consider this.”
Of course, the best case scenario is to save enough money in an ‘emergency’ bank account to cover your excess in the event of an accident. Not only will this give you peace of mind, but it will also keep your budget intact in case of an accident, no matter who is at fault.