Car insurance is to protect your investment in case something bad happens, either because of you or someone else.
What is blame?
Insurance companies use the word ‘blame’ to determine who they think is liable for an incident. Sometimes it’s not a clear cut as it seems. Take these three examples:
- You are driving on a country road. An oncoming vehicle startles a deer which jumps straight into your path and you hit it. Who is to blame? Unfortunately you. The insurer won’t be able to extract money from the deer, and the other driver is not responsible for the actions of the deer.
- You are parked in your driveway and a tree from your property falls on your car. Who is to blame. Unfortunately you again. As it was a natural event (“Act of God“), the insurer cannot get money from another party, and therefore you are to blame. However, if you had had an arborist there earlier in the day and their actions caused the tree to be unstable, the arborist would be to blame.
- You are parked in your driveway and your neighbour’s tree falls on your car. Who is to blame? Possibly your neighbour, but only if the tree was neglected. Usually it would be considered an “Act of God” and you would need to cover it yourself.
Insurance companies are there to make money so they will use any means they can to avoid paying your claim by either excluding it from what they cover or trying to apportion some or all of the blame on a third party. Two insurance companies often negotiate to determine a deal which is acceptable to both parties.
Your insurance company might reject your claim for any of the following reasons:
- Your vehicle is poorly maintained and its condition contributed to the accident, e.g. you didn’t have a current MoT, your handbrake failed and the vehicle ran into another vehicle when parked.
- You provide false details about yourself or the accident, e.g. time of day, who was driving, how fast you were going
- You were driving outside the conditions of your licence, e.g. learner with no supervisor, or driving a vehicle you are not licenced for
- You were under the influence of alcohol
- You were under the influence of medication or legal drugs
- You were under the influence of illegal drugs
- You were breaking the law when driving, e.g. above speed limit, wrong way down a one-way street, etc
- You were driving inappropriately, e.g. much too fast for the conditions
- Your insurance is only for third-party, i.e. you are not covered at all for damage to your vehicle.
Check the terms of your policy about whether and when you must inform your insurer about an accident. Even if you don’t intend to claim on your insurance so that you can preserve your no claims bonus, or perhaps the damage is less than your excess, you still usually must inform your insurance company you have had an accident. Make sure you tell them that you are just informing them and not making a claim – you don’t want them to try to settle with the other insurer, or to reduce your no claims bonus.
What information do you give to your insurer if you have an accident?
If you’re in an accident you must stay at the scene for a reasonable time. You are obliged to share your insurance details with anyone else who is involved, or if it’s dangerous to do so you must report the accident at a police station within 24 hours.
Don’t admit liability at the accident scene. Once you have established that either no one is injured, or that any injured people are being cared for or are awaiting an ambulance, document the accident scene. Avoid a confrontation with other drivers; getting angry can prejudice a case against you. Stay calm and write the details as you believe they happened.
Take as many photos as possible, trying to ensure that you document all of the scene, e.g. showing each angle that vehicles were travelling at, any skid marks, and anything that you think might help the insurance company establish blame.
The type of information to record is:
- All details for the other driver(s) – name, address, phone, licence number/expiry
- Time, date and exact location where the accident occurred, e.g. corner of A16 and Station Road, Sibsey, 20 June 2016 at 5.36pm
- Makes, models, colours and registration numbers of all vehicles involved, e.g. red Mazda MX5 registration YK02 OML
- Names, addresses and phone number of any witnesses (get this quickly because they tend to disappear). Bystanders are the best kinds of witnesses, while passengers in other vehicles are the worst kind.
- Weather, e.g. low sun, wet road, not raining
- Photograph the scene
- Sketch the scene
- Describe what happened in words
- Record any conversations with witnesses and get them to sign it if possible
- Look to see if there are any CCTV cameras that might have recorded the accident, e.g. in a shop front.
- Write down where your vehicle is being towed to if it’s not able to be driven
All this information should be sent to your insurance company to back up your claim. Make sure you know who is processing your claim. Your insurance company should be able to give you a time frame in which they will assess the damage to your vehicle and settle the claim.