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How To File A Car Insurance Claim

Daunted by the prospect of filing an insurance claim? Don’t know what you might need or which steps you should take? CompareGuru has you covered - here's our handy step-by-step guide!

Car insurance is something we get, and then hope we’ll never have to use. If you have a car that isn't insured yet, we recommend you start there by comparing car insurance quotes online from South Africa's top insurers. If you own a car, though, chances are pretty good that at one point or another, something is going to happen to it. Because the world is full of incompetence, negligence, distraction, recklessness and sign posts that just pop up out of nowhere while we're reversing. 

Hopefully, whatever comes your way, your insurance will have it covered. In your lifetime, you could be involved in a fender bender, have your windows smashed, hit a waterbank too hard or end up on the losing side of a driveway hijacking. It’s Carmageddon out there. More often than not, these things won’t be your fault, either. Should you be unfortunate enough to ever be involved in a bad vehicle-related incident, you need to know how to handle your insurance. 

We spoke to CompareGuru’s own Claims Consultants to find out how to go about making a claim on your car insurance. Here’s everything you need to know.

While You're Here: How To Handle Somebody Else’s Insurance Company

When Should You File An Insurance Claim?

When should you file an insurance claim? Depending on your type of cover, the incidents listed below could be applicable. At the very least, it’s important to have Third Party, Fire And Theft insurance. This might save you in the event of:

  1. Your vehicle being stolen / hijacked;
  2. A fire has damaged your car – via lightning, engine fire, riots or other;
  3. You accidentally damage somebody else’s vehicle, and are liable for their repairs;
  4. You drive your car through somebody’s wall and are liable for the repairs;

Comprehensive insurance covers all of the above and more. The big difference being that third party insurance will only cover damages to the other person’s property – not your own. So, along with the above, comprehensive insurance is handy when:

  1. Your vehicle has been vandalised;
  2. The car has been damaged by a natural disaster;
  3. Something has been stolen from your car;
  4. The car has been damaged due to a collision.

If your car has been stolen or damaged, you’ll need to report this to the police. This also applies if you have been injured. The police will then issue you with a case number, which you’ll need to have on hand when contacting your insurance company.

Questions To Ask Your Insurance Provider

Should you have an insurance broker, it is advisable to contact the broker first and allow them to handle the insurance company on your behalf. If not – you’ll have to deal with them yourself. This could get a little stressful, so it’s always better to let a pro fight the battle for you.

“The most important thing for insurance holders to be aware of is what their policy covers,” says our head consultant. “Clients need to have a look at the environment they live in and assess the threats to their property. Is there a high crime rate or is the area prone to hailstorms or veld fires? What does the policy cover, and to what extent?”

Our consultant also mentions that there are a number of things most clients just aren’t aware of. For instance, should they be behind on premium payments, they might not be covered for that month at all. Not only that, but many people don’t put anything aside for excess payments. 

Another thing to check is whether or not you’re covered for the loss of Unspecified Possessions. Most people disclose the fact that they have a sound system in their vehicle, and see to it that it is covered in the event of theft. You may, however, be carrying unspecified possessions at any given time which could also end up stolen. These could include your handbag, clothing, laptop, etc. Are you covered for them? 

So, clients need to ask the following questions:

  1. Am I covered for this specific loss?
  2. What will my excess payment be?
  3. Does my policy have a time limit on filing the claim?
  4. How long will the claim take to process?

While You're Here: Excess – Understanding Why You Pay It

Step One – Contact Your Insurer

Many people that are involved in a car wreck will spend needless money on towing and medical care when, in fact, most insurance companies offer their clients these services and more, free of charge, 24 hours a day. 

It’s a good idea to check your documents and save the relevant emergency numbers to your phone. Do not allow a towing company to remove your vehicle, unless your insurance company has authorised them to do so. 

It is best to contact your insurance company or broker within 48 hours of the incident. But preferably, right away. Accidents or nasty incidents are already stressful. There’s no reason that making a claim should add to that stress. So, it’s important to have all the necessary details and documentation ready – which we have listed below in Step Two. 

Remember: if you are unable to drive the vehicle, take the details of all involved parties and contact your broker as soon as possible. If the vehicle is still operational, it’s also better to leave it as is until it has been inspected. Should you decide to drive it and cause further damage, insurance may not pay out. 

Check your emergency numbers – have the vehicle towed to your house.

Step Two – Providing Details

It’s all in the details, and these need to be 100% accurate. At the time of the incident, where was your vehicle? What date and time did the incident occur? Who was driving? Was the car towed and by whom? To where? What were the weather conditions at the time? Were there any witnesses to the incident? If so – ask them for their contact details. You will need to provide an accurate description of what occurred, as well as proof of car ownership or ownership of any belongings inside the car. Do you know your policy number? Have you acquired a case number from the police? The insurance company will require the names, ID numbers, licence plate numbers, copies of the driver’s licences, addresses and contact details of all parties involved. Should another driver be involved – and be uninsured – you will need to report the accident to the police. Should the other driver be insured, you will need to exchange your relevant details with them as well. Photographs are also a massive help, and should always be taken at the scene of the incident before the car is moved. The more the better. 

As a final word of advice; never admit fault and never reveal the amount of your insurance cover to other drivers involved. This will be dealt with by the legal teams of the insurance companies. These legal teams have a much better knowledge of the law and your rights.

Step Three – Paperwork

Most insurance companies or brokers no longer work with claims forms and mountains of paperwork.

“Things have advanced now, and the industry continues to innovate,” says our Claims Consultant. “Nowadays, all of the client’s info is captured right away. All of the details can be given to us over the phone and all of the phone calls are recorded. If we need more info later on, as brokers we might get the client into a conference call with the insurer. Should a pay-out be made, the client will be required to sign off on it, but unless a client requests everything on black and white, which is rarely the case, there’s very little paperwork involved.”

Step Four – Resolution

Once the nitty-gritty is all taken care of, the relevant insurance companies of all parties, if any, will then communicate with one another and resolve the issue. This is also why it is so important to have third party cover, at the very least, to cover any damage you may inflict on other property.

“If your vehicle needs repairs, we will recommend approved repair companies you may use in your area,” says our consultant. “The insurer will then make all the arrangements and contact the client with the details. If the client would like to use their own repair company, they may submit quotes to the insurer.”

It's important to wait for approval from the insurance company before taking the vehicle for any repairs. They may reject the price and refuse to pay it. Some insurance companies only use their own approved mechanics and panel beaters. 

Should the vehicle be stolen or badly damaged, an assessor will be sent to interview you and have a look at the damages. Should the damage be too excessive, the car will be ‘written off’ and the insurance company will make a pay-out to the value of the vehicle you insured it for. It’s important to ask your broker whether your vehicle is insured for market / retail value or another amount. This can have a huge impact in the event of the vehicle being written off – which means that it’s so damaged it’s not worth repairing. Most companies will only write a vehicle off if it has sustained over 70% damage. If the damage is lower than that, and the insurance company still wants to write it off, you can ask for a cash settlement. You can then take that cash, and the vehicle, wherever you want for repairs, which won’t be guaranteed.  

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