Owning a vehicle is no longer a ‘neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride’ thingie anymore in India. It has become a basic necessity in life.
However, your vehicle could meet with an accident at any point of time. To cover your risk, you need to ensure you have taken car insurance, also called auto insurance, motor insurance or vehicle insurance.
Before you can use that insurance to get your monetary standing back as it was before the accident, there are a few dos and don’ts you need to be aware of should you be involved in an accident. Here is a small primer on what to do after a car accident in order to claim insurance.
Checklist on what to do after a car accident
Immediately after an accident, emotions and anger take control of you. In those trying times, you need to keep calm and do the following things to the best of your abilities.
1. Check for injuries first – this will help you decide what to do next. Calling the ambulance, police, your lawyer or friends can be done if you know what you need at the time of the accident.
2. Note the vehicle details of the other car – license plates, make and model, to name a few.
3. Exchange the insurance details of the other party if you think you might claim through their insurance. Even otherwise, this might help.
4. Details of all the witnesses who saw the accident is very much required. Get their names, addresses and contact numbers. At a later point of time, these witnesses can come handy to decide who and how the accident was caused.
5. Call the police if feasible. They or someone else will summon the ambulance if that is required. If calling is not feasible, you will need to file a FIR – First Hand Information report. This is mandatory is a third party liability claim needs to be progressed. You must also file a FIR if you think it is the other persons fault and the damages are huge.
With a FIR in place, the other party cannot challenge some details of the accident which have already been recorded by the police.
6. Record all the details of the accident scene. A meticulous observation will help you when you file the motor insurance claim.
7. Taking pictures might help in the claim procedure. Granted no one carries cameras around in their vehicles, but try your mobile phones or someone else’s. I would be surprised if you don’t get any !
8. Call the insurance company and inform them of the accident. Do this only if you are sure that the matter is going to go to them either by the affected party or by yourself. The affected party will try to claim through your insurance if he thinks the fault was yours and you might go to them if the expenses are gong to leave you high and dry. So for example, I would not call my insurance company if the damage is only to my car and the repairs will cost say, less than Rs 5,000/-.
Note that you must keep the insurance company help line numbers with you all the time. This is usually on the policy document or on the vehicle insurance booklet that was delivered along with the policy. Keep both in the vehicle.
What not to do ?
There are a number of things you might want to stay clear of.
1. Firstly, do not make any statements to the police or the insurance company if you think you are doubtful of what you are speaking. Your mind is racing and you are shocked to be involved in the car accident so anything you say might be recorded and your motor insurance claim can be denied if those statements can be used against you.
Statements can be made and recorded after you have regained your composure.
2. Secondly, do not accept outright it is your mistake if you have the slightest doubt about it.
3. Thirdly, please do not get into a mortal combat, verbal or otherwise, with the other party. If you lose your temper, the claim process will be more convoluted.
File your claim with your car insurance company
Before you file your claim, it is best of know how motor insurance works. Vehicle insurance is meant to protect losses that may arise due to traffic accidents and against liability caused in the accident.
There are two types of vehicle insurance – comprehensive and third party.
Comprehensive car insurance covers any losses due to damage or theft to your vehicle and death of anyone in the car during the accident. Third party car insurance only covers the damage done by your vehicle to the other vehicle or property. It does not cover accidents, theft or damage to your vehicle.
You also need to be aware of the fact that when you file a claim with your motor insurance company, the claim will not cover any wear and tear of the vehicle or it’s depreciated value. The claim you receive is on actual repairs to the vehicle subject to a maximum of what the IDV (Insured Declared Value) is on your policy document.
Having said that, you will need to call your insurance company within a stipulated amount of time to file the claim – check in your policy document what that time-line is.
The motor insurance company will have a preferred a garage where you might need to tow the vehicle for estimation of damage and cost of repairs.
The insurance company will ask for documents to be submitted, the list of which is below :
- Copy of the insurance policy
- First Information Report (FIR)
- Claim form filled up
- Vehicle Registration copy
- Driving License Copy
- Original Estimate of repairs
- Medical receipts
- Original police certified no-trace report (in case of theft only)
- RTO transfer papers duly signed (in case of theft only)
I will do a separate post on the claim process, for now, can you suggest what other steps one must take in case one is invoved in a car accident to avoid any surprises when the claim is filed ?