CAR INSURANCE AND ACCIDENTS – THE IN’S AND OUT’S

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We all watch too many American movies where the cop pulls over a driver and demands:  “licence and registration please’.  While we in good old SA must be licensed to drive a vehicle, car insurance is not a legal requirement in this country – yet.

CAR INSURANCE – WHEN MUST I INSURE MY VEHICLE?

car insurance - two cars in an accidentThe only case when you MUST have valid car insurance, is if you have borrowed money from a financial institution to buy the vehicle. The institution will require you to have car insurance while the agreement is valid.  Once you have paid off the vehicle, it is your choice to continue having it insured or not.  The fact is that many drivers choose not to insure their vehicles, with 2015 statistic showing that only 30% to 40% of vehicles on the road are covered, making all drivers on the road vulnerable to the costly after-effects of an accident.

Transport related institutions have been calling for compulsory third-party car insurance since 2012, but up to now, no real progress has been made in getting this done.

SO, WHO PAYS IF AN UNINSURED DRIVER DRIVES INTO ME?

If you are insured and an uninsured driver causes damage to your vehicle, you will have to claim damages from your insurance. The insurance will then have to claim from the person who caused the damage.

If you are uninsured and another uninsured person drives into you, you will have to claim from the person who caused the damage.  If the claim is for less than R15 000, you may approach the Small Claims Court.  If the claim is more than R15 000, you will have to approach the Magistrate’s Court with the assistance of an attorney.

WHAT IF I AM UNINSURED AND I CAUSE DAMAGE TO ANOTHER VEHICLE?

Imagine this:  You want to save money by not insuring your car.  You rationalised this by saying “I am a cautious driver, the chances of me being in an accident is very low”.  One day you quickly avert your eyes to read a message on your phone, and kabaaa, you hit a Ferrari……   The damage to the Italian beauty is R1mil.  The owner informs you that he will not claim from his insurance, as he was not at fault. He takes you to court.  If only, if only….

The above very real scenario could have been prevented if you at least considered 3rd Party Cover.  Third party insurance covers the other party (in this case the Ferrari), but not your own vehicle. It is normally quite reasonable and should be considered by anyone who cannot afford comprehensive vehicle insurance.

WHAT MUST I DO SHOULD I BECOME INVOLVED IN AN ACCIDENT?

Should you ever become involved in a vehicle accident, here is what you must do:

  • Call the police or report the accident at the nearest police station,
    • within 24 hours if a person is killed or injured; or
    • on the first working day after the accident if no person was killed or injured.
  • Write down the name of the police officer spoken to and the accident report’s reference number.
  • Co-operate with all emergency personnel and police who respond to the accident.
  • Get the details of all other motor vehicles involved in the accident, such as the drivers’ names, identity numbers, addresses, telephone numbers, description of the motor vehicles, the registration numbers, and any relevant details from the licence discs; the date, time and address of the accident; the weather and road conditions when the accident occurred; and any other information that may be relevant.
  • If an employee is driving a motor vehicle on behalf of his/her employer, then the details of the driver and the employer must be taken.
  • Write down the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all potential witnesses of the accident.
  • Take photographs or a video of the following:
    • the scene of the accident, from all angles;
    • the surrounding area;
    • the injuries; and
    • any damage to property.
  • Draw a sketch plan of the scene of the accident and make sure that it contains a fixed point so that it can easily be traced. Also make a statement about how the accident happened. This sketch and statement will remind a person of all the details relating to the accident at a later stage.
  • If a person has been injured, a doctor must be consulted immediately, even if the injury is not serious.
  • If the person is insured, that person must notify his/her insurance or broker as soon as possible. Write down the name of the person spoken to at the insurance and the reference number of the claim.

THE DREADED TOW TRUCK DRIVER – MUST I ALLOW THEM TO TOW MY CAR AWAY?

The National Road Traffic Act 93 of 1996 stipulates in Section 61(3) that “…no person shall remove a vehicle involved in an accident, except for the purpose of sufficiently allowing the passage of traffic, without the permission of the owner, driver or operator of such vehicle or a person who may lawfully take possession of such a vehicle.”

So, do not allow Town truck Drivers’ or law enforcement officials to pressurize you in accepting towing services.  The law is clear: Police and metro officers are not allowed to enter into a contract between the owner and a towing service. If they’re pressuring you, they’re PROBABLY getting a kickback from the service.  If your vehicle does not prevent the passage of other traffic, you are under no obligation to move it to a tow yard.

If you are up to it, move the vehicle to the side of the road where it will not be in the way, call your insurance and ask them who you should use for towing, if required.  Many insurers have a list of approved Tow Truck Companies.  If you are uninsured, you can even ask a friend to assist you in removing it.

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