The definition of an accident is “an event that couldn’t have been controlled, intended or predicted”. However, you are often able to claim on other circumstances which, whilst not strictly an accident, have nevertheless caused you loss. Such incidents include theft, windscreen damage and fire damage. After such an incident, you should quickly consult your insurance policy document to check whether or not you are covered against that eventuality.
When you have a claim, you must go through a specific claims procedure as set down by your insurer. Over recent years this procedure has become much easier in response to the increased efficiency of Australian car insurance companies and the growth of ‘direct insurance.’ Your insurance documents will provide all the necessary details about how to claim and most Australian insurance companies such as Youi have a special 24 hour claims telephone number to speed the process. (We recommend that you make a note of that number in your phone book just in case.) Once you have called the claims department, they will want to know what damage has been sustained, where it is now and whether the car is derivable. They will also agree repair and vehicle recovery arrangements with you.
The claims department will probably also want a police accident report number – if the the police attended the accident they will have given this to you; if the police did not attend the accident, you can get the number when you report the accident to them. (Remember, accidents have to be reported to the police with 4 hours – this is your legal responsibility.) The claims department will also arrange to post an accident claim form to you. By the way, we recommend that you ask the claims department what, if anything, they need from you in terms of evidence etc.
Here’s a good tip. Carry a spare camera in the vehicle, as one of the best forms of evidence are pictures of the scene of the accident. These can then be included with your own statement. Ensure that any correspondence you send to your insurer is copied and kept in a safe place. You should also ensure that you keep all receipts that relate to your claim.
Wherever possible we recommend that you use the insurance company’s preferred repairers as they normally have to guarantee their work and that’s effectively a seal of quality for you. If you use a repair garage that wasn’t recommended by your insurer, then BEFORE any work is undertaken, you will need to submit a formal estimate to your insurer.
If you have comprehensive cover, you can often call from the scene of the accident and your insurer will send a tow-truck to take your vehicle to the nearest approved garage. This garage will normally be authorised to begin repairs straight away and often your insurance company will even provide you with a courtesy vehicle whilst the repairs are finished. Usually, when the damage is minor the insurance company will have returned your vehicle within a few days.
With serious damage, the insurer will have to decide whether it is more economical to write the car off rather than repair it. In these circumstances it will take a few days for the damage to be assessed and the final decision to be confirmed. The insurer will then contact you to discuss the financial arrangements.
A further advantage of using the insurer’s recommended garage is that the cost of the repairs will be paid directly to the garage by your insurer. But don’t forget that you will still be expected to pay the agreed excess on your policy. Normally, you have to pay the value of the excess directly to the repair garage before you take the car away.
If you only have third party insurance, you have to arrange and pay for the repairs to your car yourself. If the accident was caused by the other party, you will have to claim your costs from the other driver or his insurance company. So keep the receipts for all your costs – insurance companies will not pay out without them!
You should be aware that claims procedures can vary slightly between insurance companies. If you have an accident, you should double check your insurance company’s claims procedure. It is important to follow it exactly otherwise you may find delays arise in completing the repairs or other financial matters.