Owning car insurance, especially these days, is beyond necessity. Statistics from just a year ago show that the situation is worsening in our country, with more and more road accidents and fatalities occurring each and every month. With the attitude that most motorists have towards safety, it’s more a matter of when than if.
Of course, not all road accidents are fatal – but they all cost money. There’s not much worse than that feeling you get when you accidentally clip a wall or a pole or a high curb and damage your vehicle. Your wallet takes the biggest dent of all, and you have nobody to blame but yourself. And then, sometimes it’s just not your fault at all – and somebody else has just ploughed their way into your life.
You’re sitting in traffic, idling, when the inattentive driver behind you rear-ends your car. You’re driving down a road when somebody, looking down at their phone, pulls out of their driveway and in front of you. You may be on the highway when a moron swerves into your lane too quickly and smashes your bumper. These things happen, because most people are terrible, careless, negligent drivers.
So, what happens when you’re not at fault? How do you handle the situation, and how do you deal with the guilty party’s insurance company? We spoke to CompareGuru’s own Claims Consultants to find out.
The Most Important Thing To Remember
Insurance gets a little tricky when it comes to determining who’s to blame in an accident and, more importantly, who’s going to pay for the damages.
It’s important to remember that those first few minutes are crucial. The natural reaction is to get angry – but don’t do that. Your first priority is to remain calm and make sure that everybody involved, drivers and passengers, are unharmed.
If somebody requires medical attention – you need to see to that first. If you have insurance, your insurer probably has an emergency assistance contact which you can use to arrange emergency medical treatment. Once this has been taken care of, you can calmly follow the next couple of steps. If you don’t have all the important emergency numbers saved on your phone – do that now. You never know when you’re going to need it.
If the guilty party decides to drive away and make a run for it, think quick and get that licence plate number.
After any accident, you need to exchange details with the other driver. You need to get the following information:
- You need to take all the relevant personal details, as well as insurance details of the other driver.
- Then, ask any bystanders if they wouldn’t mind providing you with eye witness accounts and get their contact details as well.
- Take photos of the damage to all involved vehicles – the more the better.
- Write down everything you can remember about the incident – time, date, location and what happened.
- Finally, take a photo of the other person’s driver’s licence.
- The other person should take all of your details, as well.
The person at fault could be a really sweet old granny. Maybe you feel sorry for her and find yourself compelled to say something comforting like:
“I wasn’t paying attention either,” or … “Maybe I indicated too late,” or … “I was checking my Facebook.”
Never, under any circumstances, admit any kind of fault or designate any sort of blame. That sweet old granny and her insurer will take you to the cleaners. Stick to exchanging details and that’s it. You pay a monthly premium for a reason – let your insurance company fight the battle for you.
Involve The Police
You may not want to do this at first.
Perhaps the other driver is a little tipsy or doesn’t have a valid driver’s licence. They beg you not to involve the fuzz.
All the more reason to phone the police – because without a police report, it’s your word against theirs. Even if the accident is only minor – just a small dent – it’s a smart move to have the police come in to write up a report which corroborates your story. Many times, what appears to be a trivial bit of damage could turn out to be something far bigger – or – you could have sustained injuries you’re not aware of.
The insurance company will also request your accident report number, which will be needed to file and complete your claim.
Contact Your Own Insurance Company First
You should then immediately let your insurance company know that you were in an accident, even if it wasn’t your fault. In fact, our Claims Consultants say that the other person’s insurance company will often request proof that you won’t be claiming from your own insurer as well.
People sometimes do this to pocket extra cash. So, you’ll need to contact your insurer and request a letter from them. This letter needs to state that you have no intention of claiming from your own insurer. This step also serves to inform your insurer that the other insurance company will be in contact with them. Nobody likes these surprises. Here are some things which may apply:
- If the other person doesn’t have insurance (most motorists in South Africa are completely uninsured) then you will need to contact your insurer anyway. Provide them with all the details and all the personal details of the guilty party. In most cases, your insurer will see to the repairs first – and then track the other person down for repayment.
- If you don’t have insurance, and you’re not at fault, you can skip this step and jump straight to the next one…
Then Contact The Other Person’s Insurer
You then need to report the accident to the other person’s insurer. Don’t wait for the guilty party to do it for you, or it may never get done.
Remember, admit no fault and only provide them with the honest facts. Provide them with your details and your own insurer’s details, if relevant. Once the incident has been reported to all insurers and all details have been provided, it will be up to the companies to duke it out and decide on who is going to pay.
If you’ve got a police report, eye witness reports and accurate information, you have nothing to worry about.
You may have to pay excess in order to begin the process of repairing your vehicle. If it is decided that you’re not to blame, you will be reimbursed by the other insurance company.
This process is known as subrogation.
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