Being in a car accident is stressful but just imagine having your insurance claim rejected because of something silly that you did! It could be a financial disaster and make your unpleasant situation far worse.
Don’t let that happen and take a look at these 4 common mistakes to avoid when you’re involved in an accident.
It’s natural to want to apologise if you bump into another car because you took your eyes off the road for a second, especially if the other driver is angry or blaming you. Under the terms of your insurance contract though, you will have agreed to not admit guilt when you’re involved in an accident.
Your insurance provider takes legal responsibility should other people involved in the incident or their insurance providers wish to sue for the damage you have caused. Your insurance provider will look at the facts and decide whether to defend the case and seek reparations from other parties, or whether to pay up.
If you admit that you were at fault, you put your insurance provider at a legal disadvantage and hamper its ability to fight the case. Your duty is to place the facts on the record in your statement to the police and in your claim. Leave the rest to your insurance firm’s legal team.
Admitting guilt could in the worst-case scenario leave you legally liable for the cost of repairs to your own car and to claims from other people involved in the accident or their insurers.
Allowing an unauthorised provider to tow your car away
Tow truck drivers can be very pushy and can sometimes be skint with the truth. Don’t allow the first tow truck driver on the scene to take your vehicle away. Instead, you should contact your car insurance provider’s emergency number and ask it which provider you should use. The reason for this is that your car insurance provider will have preferential agreements with certain tow truck providers.
Many of the rogue tow trucks who are so quick to arrive after a collision will charge higher towing rates and take your vehicle to a scrapyard that charges exorbitant daily storage fees compared to the assessment centre your insurance provider uses. If you allow an unauthorised operator to take your car, you might be liable for the extra towing and storage costs.
Make sure you have your insurances emergency contact details and if they provide “Do not tow” stickers for your car, use them.
Driving away without getting contact details
Never leave the scene of an accident without getting contact details from other parties involved in the accident and from potential eye witnesses. This forms part of your responsibility to enable your insurance provider to defend your case and recover costs from parties at fault in the incident.
Feel free to take some photos of the scene and damage to vehicles to substantiate your statement to the police. Some insurance providers enable you to file your claim and accident report on the spot, along with your photos. Of course, dashcam footage can also help to clarify who was at fault in the accident.
Failing to report the accident to the nearest police station
Under South African law, you should report an accident to the nearest police station within 24 hours following an accident on a public road. If you consumed alcohol on the day preceding the accident, it is wise to present yourself to a medical facility for an immediate blood alcohol test.
The insurance provider will reject your claim if it has proof that you were over the limit at the time of the incident. The process it will follow to get this proof might be unpleasant, inconvenient and time-consuming for you. Taking a blood test is the best and quickest way to prove that you were not above the legal limit at the time of the accident. It goes without saying that you should not have a drink to steady your nerves until you have had such a blood test.
Although it may be hard to keep your composure, stay calm. Minor collisions and fender-benders are not the end of the world; despite some inconvenience and a possible excess payment for your insurance, all will be fine. Keep this in mind when dealing with the other driver, two truck drivers and when making your statement at the police station. It’s a pain to do it all but these things happen.