Car accident Insurance claims
Car accidents are the source of most claims for New Zealand insurance companies, and statistics show that it is very unlikely for people to go through life without having to claim on their car insurance at least once. In fact, on average over a lifetime of driving, people should expect to lodge four claims, one of these being for a more serious accident. Not all events are your fault - some claims could result from damage caused to your car even while it is parked.
Car accidents and Insurance claims - What to do
The first thing you need to do is report the incident to your insurance company and, if someone has been injured, to the police, within 24 hours. Most insurers have a time limit in place in which notification of an accident is required. This is best done either in person or over the telephone. If you have a broker it would be best to call them as they may have a specific procedure in place for dealing with claims. Texting is generally not an acceptable form of communication in these situations and will not suffice, as you will need to describe what happened, in detail. Your insurance company will generally check your policy to confirm that cover applies on the vehicle and guide you through the process of completing a claim form. For smaller claims like broken windscreens, a claim form may not be required. Your insurer will review with you the repairs needed, and normally discuss with you who the repairer will be. For more serious incidents, they will probably want an expert claims assessor to see the car and agree with a repairer on the expected costs to do the repair work. This is normally done at the repairer's premises. If the car needs towing, the insurance company will organise this and direct where it is to go.
If the owner of the vehicle was not the driver, both the driver and the owner will have to complete different sections of the claim form. It is important to take your time and make sure you provide all relevant information. Be accurate and truthful in all the information you provide. Any attempt to mislead the company can be used later as grounds to dispute your claim. You will have to answer questions about what you had been drinking prior to the accident. It is not uncommon for an insurance company, particularly when there is a suggestion that alcohol could have been a factor, to seek independent verification of your statements in the claim form. Some policies are null and void if you have been driving under the influence of alcohol, regardless of whether the police have charged you or not. Being honest is important, as your future access to insurance can be jeopardised if you are found to have lied.
Your insurance company will also want to know the full particulars of the other party, if any, involved in the accident, especially if they were at fault. This includes details of whether they are insured or not. Getting these details at the time of the accident, and the names of witnesses and other people in their car, is very important. Taking photographs can be very helpful. Take photographs of everything including the other vehicle, and even of the driver. It is important not to admit liability on the scene, as it is a condition of most insurance policies that you do not make any such admission. Remember, not admitting liability is different from answering truthfully to your insurance company and the police.
Finally, when your claim is approved, your insurance company will arrange for your car to be repaired to the same condition it was in before the accident but you must not expect insurance repairs to remedy faults that existed before the accident. You will also have to pay any excess to the repairer before you collect your car from them. Your insurance company will make the amount clear to you at the time of your claim being approved.
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