Car accident claims must be handled quickly & professionally

Car accidents are not events that can be foreseen and commonly occur when you least expect it. If you own and use a motor vehicle, it is in your best interest to purchase comprehensive car insurance for the asset.

Regardless of who may have been at fault, you can claim from insurance to cover the damages incurred and depending on your insurance policy, all costs could be covered in the event of an accident.

However, if you do not own insurance or your policy does not cover damages incurred to your car if you are at fault, you will be responsible for all costs involved in repairing your vehicle.

What to do in the event of a car accident?

If you are involved in a car accident which another driver caused, you are entitled to claim compensation from the driver at fault. You can claim from the driver's insurance company or take the matter to the small claims court if the driver is uninsured.

The insurance payouts will depend entirely on the nature of the accident and the damages incurred, insurance companies will analyse the police report as well as send their own evaluator to inspect the vehicles and in some instances the scene of the accident. It is pertinent that as a driver, you are alert and cautious at all times, car accidents can be life threatening and your best protection is your own driving.

Advanced driving courses are excellent aids to your driving ability and promote awareness while driving as well as teaching evasive or emergency techniques.

When the accident happens

The shock of the accident will spike your adrenaline and senses, it is vital to remain as calm as possible.

The first step is to ensure that you do not need medical attention and then that all persons involved do not require medical attention. The next step is to approach and engage the driver that was responsible for the accident as well as any other person involved in the accident. It is necessary to furnish anyone involved in the accident with your full details and the details of your insurance company, in turn, they are obliged to do the same. Make note of all possible details of any person involved, such as license expiry date and insurance policyholder.

You are not required to provide your address of residence and do not give it to any person involved in the accident. Following these steps, you must contact your insurance company if you own a policy.

By law you are required to report all road accidents to the closest police station, you must do this within 24 hours of the accident.

Any other person directly involved in the accident is also required to open separate cases. A familiar sight at an accident scene is a flock of tow-trucks. Multitudes of tow-truck drivers will descend upon any driver involved offering their towing services, these services could be covered by your insurance company provided the tow-truck company is registered with your insurance company as a service provider.

Some insurance companies will only cover towing services by specific contractors that are dispatched upon completion of the registration of the accident with the insurance company. If you do not have access to insured towing services, you may wish to pay for a tow truck to transport your car, but this will be entirely at your own cost.

If you wish to do so, you have the right to alert Metro police to attend the scene and oversee the proceedings.

The process of claiming for a car accident?

Once you have reported the accident to the police, they will provide you with a case number.

This number must be kept as a reference for the insurance companies or court. The case will then be investigated by the police and an official report will be recorded by the investigating officer.

The insurance companies will then refer to this report when assessing the  third party claim, similarly, if the claim is taken to the small claims court, the judge will consider the police report as evidence. Contained in the report are descriptions of the events, details of persons involved, any witness testimonies and concluding findings by the investigating officer.

The reports filed by all parties are combined and reviewed in their entirety. If you are comprehensively insured, this may be the end of your involvement in the process, but depending on the parameters of your policy and the severity of the damages to your car, you may be required to consult with panel beaters and mechanics for the details of the damages and quotes for repairs.

Only after your claim has been processed with your insurance company will they pay for the repairs to your vehicle. On the other hand, if you and the driver at fault do not have insurance, you will have to take the matter to the small claims court and argue your case in front of a Judge.

Useful Tips

The stress created from a car accident can be overwhelming, below are a couple of things you can do to help lubricate the process:

  • Maintain a cool head immediately after the accident. Many drivers may be aggressive after the accident and try and intimidate you. Remaining calm and removed will help dissipate the angst as well as ensure a speedy resolution.
  • Make sure you record anything you feel may be of importance. You can appeal to anyone who was witness to the accident to provide testimony in support of the events.
  • If possible take pictures of all the relevant details of the accident. Make sure you capture the damage to your and any other drivers car. Take photos of the driver's license disk, number plate and driver's license.
  • Try and move to the emergency lane or left-hand side of the road, stopping in the middle of the road can result in further accidents.
  • If your car is towed, remove all valuables from your car and ensure you have all the necessary details and paperwork for the towing company.
  • Do not admit to fault in any way, even if you were the direct cause of the accident. It is up to the police to determine the cause of the accident and you are not obliged to admit guilt. Doing so may invite the other driver to try to convince you into settling the accident without the involvement of the police and insurance.
  • If the matter needs to be taken to court, it may be beneficial to consult legal experts to assist you in your claim, however, the costs may be impractical.

The low down

Car accidents are a part of life and although they can have a serious impact on your health and well-being, there are ways to ensure you are compensated for the damages.

Remember that there are many people who might try take advantage of you while you are vulnerable, whether it is the other driver or a disgruntled passenger, many people will use the opportunity to try and benefit themselves. If you are unsure of any process or need assistance at the scene, you are entitled to contact the Metro police and ask them to attend the scene.

The damages incurred in the accident will determine the outcome of the Road Accident Fund claim and the amount of monetary compensation. It is, however, the responsibility of those involved in the accident to stop and follow the necessary procedures.