Insurance

INSURANCE / MAKING STATEMENTS

You are not obliged to reveal to anyone the name of your 'comprehensive' insurer, or even whether your vehicle is comprehensively insured or not - although this is usually done when both parties are comprehensively insured for settlement in terms of a knock-for-knock insurance agreement.

-::- Making statements -::-

Generally, the less said at the scene of an accident, the better. A seemingly innocent remark can subsequently be given a sinister twist during cross-examination in court and might even be interpreted later as an admission of liability. Furthermore, the standard motor-insurance policies usually prohibits any 'admission, offer, promise, payment or indemnity' being made by, or on behalf of, the insured motorist. A breach of this term may invalidate the policy.

Never offer money to any person who is injured or who has suffered damage to property. If a motorist, for instance, collides with a cyclist, and pays for the repairs to the bicycle, it could easily be interpreted as an admission of guilt.

The worst time to try to evaluate the situation is probably just after the accident has occurred. Those involved are likely to be in an emotional or shocked state and unsure of the extent of damage or injury. Anyone who admits liability, or even appears to do so, could be taking on an obligation without realising its consequences.

If you have been involved in an accident you are under no obligation to make a statement to the police or to anybody else involved or present at the scene.

This rule applies equally at the scene of the accident and afterwards at the police station. You would be entirely within your rights to refuse to discuss an accident with a police officer.

When another driver is clearly at fault, you may decide to make a statement to the police - to exonerate yourself, perhaps, or to provide evidence on which the police could base a prosecution.

A witness to an accident, who was in no way involved and against whom no charge can possibly be brought, may also make a statement to the police.

If you agree to make a statement to the police, you may write it down yourself, using your own words to give an accurate account of what happened. Avoid vague or ambiguous phrases which can later be misinterpreted or misconstrued. The police might give the impression that the correct procedure is for the police officer to write down a statement at a motorist's dictation. This is not necessarily true, and a statement may sometimes become a summary of how the police, not the motorist, believe the accident occurred.

When the statement has been completed, the police officer will read it aloud, or ask you to read it out yourself. If you find it to be correct, you will be requested to sign it. Don't forget to initial any alterations you may make. Sign the statement only once you have satisfied yourself that it is accurate.

In certain circumstances, police have the authority to arrest a motorist at the scene of an accident - if they believe that he or she is under the influence of alcohol, for instance

-::- Insurance -::-

Inform your insurer or broker as soon as you are involved in an accident, first by telephone, fax or telegram and then by written notice sent by registered mail.

Keep a copy of this letter of confirmation and all later correspondence. At this stage there is no need to submit a fully detailed account of the accident.

If you are unable to report to the insurer in person because of injury, ask a friend or relative to do this for you.

After receiving your report, the insurer will send you a claim form to fill in or ask you to call at its office to describe the accident to a loss investigator or assessor

Contact your insurer (preferably through your broker or agent) as soon as it is necessary to claim against an insurance policy. Your insurer will arrange for the damage that you have incurred to be inspected as soon as possible. Try not to disturb anything on your premises until your insurer has been notified. If you have to make urgent necessary repairs, get permission from your insurer before you hire any contractors to carry out repairs. After your insurer has been notified, you will be required to complete a claim form. It is advisable to do this in consultation with your broker or agent. If the extent of the damage or of the loss through theft is not immediately apparent and the insurer presses you for details, sign the claim form, but make it clear to the insurer that the claim only reflects what is being claimed at the time. If the insurer accepts this, you can present an additional claim when the true amount is known. If you do not, the insurer is still bound to give you a reasonable time to prepare your claim. Ensure that you get all agreements of this sort in writing. Your insurer may send an insurance assessor to assess the damage after you've put in your claim. Leave negotiations with the insurer and the appointed assessor to your broker or agent and do not make any factual admissions to the assessor unless you are completely sure of those facts.

-::- When claims are settled -::-

When an insurer pays a claim, you will be asked to sign and return a form stating that the cheque you are being offered is paid to and accepted by you in full and final settlement of the claim. Before you sign, ensure that all the amounts that you have claimed have been paid. If not, do not present the cheque for payment at the bank (and remember not to sign the form), but discuss the discrepancy with the insurer's claims department. If you deposit the cheque, you will lose any further claim against the insurer.

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