Take your time

01 September 2004 Angelo Coppola

Motor vehicle accidents are just that – accidents and are difficult to avoid.

In Gauteng more than 700 accidents take place on a daily basis which amounts to approximately 20,000 accidents per month.

“All these are not necessarily serious accidents,” says Dave van Alphen-Stahl, Mutual & Federal Executive General Manager, “Often it's just a bump or a scrape, but it remains an unpleasant experience, especially if you’re left for weeks without your vehicle.”

To try and take some of the sting out of the whole accident experience, consider the following before you take to the road again:

  • Make sure your insurance policy offers you the appropriate cover.
  • Make sure your policy clearly indicates for what purpose the vehicle may be used – business or private.
  • Make sure the driver/s of your vehicle is/are licensed.
  • Make sure all premiums are up to date

“Generally speaking, motor vehicles are depreciating assets,” says van Alphen-Stahl, “and policyholders often neglect to have these assets valued on a regular ongoing basis. The depreciating value of the vehicle, provided it is accurate, should have no effect on the type of cover the policyholder enjoys.

"He or she could end up paying an unnecessary high premium for an unnecessary high insured amount - an amount which will not necessarily be paid out,” he warns.

“Settlement amounts are calculated on the actual value of the vehicle the day the loss occurs, irrespective of the insured amount.”

That said, you may still be involved in an accident. If so, remember the following:

  • Stop immediately and stay calm. Under no circumstances must you admit guilt or accept responsibility for the accident.
  • If people are injured, it’s best not to move the vehicles. Help others where possible.
  • Write down the following details.
    - Time and place of the accident;
    - Descriptions and registration numbers of all other vehicles involved;
    - Details of all the drivers - names and addresses, ID numbers and telephone numbers;
    - If the driver of any vehicle is not the owner, make sure you get the details of the owner;
    - Details of all eyewitnesses;
    - The name and station of any police officer present, and
    - Don’t forget to inform the police of the accident within 24 hours.
  • Contact your insurer to inform them about the accident and ask for advice on how best to handle the situation.

“Several towing operators may arrive at the scene of the accident within seconds and will try and persuade you to make use of their services,” warns van Alphen-Stahl.

“Even the police may put pressure on you to clear the scene as quickly as possible. Remember, you’re in shock,” he says. “Take your time and don’t make any hasty decisions.” Contact your insurer to enquire if they offer a tow-away service or can suggest a reliable company.

“All accidents are different and it is often difficult to determine the extent of the damage right there on the scene of the accident,” says van Alphen-Stahl. “If there is only a small bump or scratch, you may consider driving the vehicle away yourself.

"Should this cause further damage to the vehicle, your insurer will be obliged to investigate the matter. However, if the insurer finds that the driver did not act negligently, any additional damage will, in most cases, be covered as part of the original claim.”

“If you’re injured and cannot see to the towing of your vehicle, your insurer will ‘accept’ that the vehicle was towed by an approved towing operator and the claim will be processed accordingly,” explains van Alphen-Stahl.

“If not, the insurer will trace the vehicle and make the necessary arrangements to have it removed and towed to an approved repairer.”

Accidents are unavoidable – but the hassle that goes along with them, can be controlled.

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