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Insurance and Making Statments

Accidents happen. They do. That’s why it’s up to us to make sure we’re insured for them.

If you are insured and an accident strikes, it’s important to know what is and isn’t required of you so that you can deal with the situation as quickly and calmly as possible, because let’s face it, accidents are stressful enough without feeling like you’re left in the dark when it comes to insurance matters.

Insurance and making statements

The first thing you should know is that if you are in an accident you don’t need to tell anyone who you are insured by. You don’t even have to tell them if you’re insured or not. The law has your back on this one. Normally both parties involved in an accident do exchange this information though when both are insured for a knock-for-knock insurance agreement.

Making statements

At the scene of the accident it’s better not to make a statement. Not because you have anything to hide, but because it’s happened before where one party makes a seemingly innocent comment after the accident and it ends up being twisted into something different – something negative that doesn’t help your case. If you’re cross-examination in court and the comment crops up it can be spun to set you up for admitting you were in the wrong.

On that note, if you read your car insurance policy it says that you’re not allowed to admit, offer or promise anyone anything without clearing it with your insurance company first. If you do any of these things it can be seen as a breach of contract and your policy can be deemed invalid by your insurer. Just like that. That’s fine print for you! Always read the fine print.

Offering to help

It may happen that you find yourself involved in an accident – the accident wasn’t your fault, but you still feel like you’d like to help the other party, just because you’re a good person. Don’t. That’s right, it’s not advisable to offer money to anyone who was injured, inconvenienced or had their property damaged. Why - because the court may see this as you trying to say sorry for something you’ve caused, which is admitting you’re guilty. Need an example? Well, if you were driving your car and you hit a cyclist, and paid for the repairs to the bicycle (just because your parents raised you to be compassionate) it could quite easily be taken as admission of guilt. Sad, but true.

Statements and shock don’t mix

Just after you’ve been in an accident you’re rattled, shocked and emotional. You also can’t be sure how bad the injuries and damage to property are at this point. With all of this going on it’s the worst time to try and evaluate the situation and tell someone what you’re thinking. If anyone on the scene admits the accident was their fault, they could be taking a big responsibility onto their shoulders without even realising what the consequences may be.

What the law says about making statements

After you’ve just been in an accident, don’t make a statement, because by law, you don’t have to. Even if you wind up at the police station after accident, you still don’t have to give the police a statement. You’re well within your rights to do this.

When they’re in the wrong

Don’t be afraid to make a statement to the police if the other driver is clearly in the wrong. Your statement that includes all the facts that add up could prove to be solid enough to exonerate yourself. This kind of statement may also give police the evidence they need to base a prosecution.

Strengthen your case

If you’re able to find someone who wasn’t involved in the accident and saw it unfold, ask this person to make a statement to the police. It could definitely strengthen your case if you weren’t in the wrong and a civil matter rears its head from the event.

Getting your statement right

If you would like to make a statement to the police, know that you don’t have to give them a verbal statement. A written statement is just as good. If you write your statement down you benefit from being able to put down what exactly happened in your own words so that you know that the statement is as accurate as it could possibly be. Vague descriptions in a statement don’t fly. It’s too easy to misinterpreted something that isn’t offering a solid fact or opinion.

Don’t be intimidated by a police officer who is giving you the impression that he’s the one who needs to write the statement down while you speak. This really isn’t the case. If you feel strongly about writing your own statement – do it. The last thing you want is a summary of what the police officer thinks happened and not what you’ve tried to communicate. Rather safe than sorry.

You’ve given your statement – now what?

After you’ve given in your statement to the police officer, it is customary for the officer to read your statement aloud back to you. They may also ask you to read it out yourself, but it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. Anyway, after the statement has been read aloud, if you give it the nod of approval, you’ll also be asked to give it the signature of approval. Sign it.

Insurance

Letting your insurer know

Naturally, after an accident, you’ll want to let your insurer or broker know that you’ve been involved in an accident. It’s best to do this as soon as possible. To make sure that your communication with the company can be tracked and heard, first give your insurer a call, then send them a fax, and thirdly, send them written notice and send it to them via registered mail. That way you can be 100% sure that your communication has been received.

If you’ve been badly injured in the accident and you can’t let your insurer know, ask a close friend or family member to let them know for you.

The admin

Make sure that you keep a copy of all the delivery receipts you have received from the correspondence you’ve sent to your insurer, along with any other communication that has happened since. You don’t have to provide your insurer with anything too detailed at this point – just make sure they’re aware you may need to claim.

Filling in the claim form

Once you’ve received your accident report, your insurer will either send you a claim form to fill out or they will ask you to give them a call and describe the details of the accident to a loss investigator or assessor. You’ll want to do this as soon as possible so that you can claim from the insurance policy you took out.

When claims are settled

When your insurance pays out they’ll ask you to sign and return a form. This form is basically there for them to receive confirmation that you are the right person to receive the money and you acknowledge the amount they are paying out to you in settlement of your claim.

Make sure you double check that all the amounts you have put in a claim for have been paid to you. Before you sign, make sure that all the amounts that you have claimed for have been paid to you. If they haven't, chat to the insurance claims department at your insurance company before you sign the form so that any glitches are smoothed out before your case is deemed resolved. If you sign the form before you’ve made 100% sure everything is in order and you later realise something is wrong, you would have kissed your chance of getting any further money out of your insurer goodbye.

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