On your way home from work, sitting in bumper to bumper traffic, it so happens your car starts moving before the car in front of you starts to move, and you give him a little nudge. It also so happens to be a two million Rand Range Rover, and the owner doesn't look all that pleased. It almost sends you over the edge but then you remember you have third party insurance – phew! But what’s the process of claiming and who does it? You or the driver of the Range Rover? It’s probably terrain you haven’t ever had to think about, which is why we’ve broken it down into bite-size chunks right here.
First, make sure you get the details of the third party
Make sure you grab as much information as you can while the person is there in front of you. Take a couple of photos/videos as evidence, get their contact details and whatever else you might need to file a claim. If you are unsure about what info you might need here’s a piece to help with that.
Then, report the incident to the police within 24 hours
This is super important and not only a requirement of the South African Road Traffic Act but it’s also a legal requirement even if you and the other driver settle the damage out of your own pocket’s. Make sure you jot down the case number and that you take pictures of the completed report right then and there.
Next, contact your insurer and tell them about the accident and that a third party was involved
Even if you decide not to claim from your insurer for your damage you still need to tell them when you have been involved in an accident where more than just your car was involved. The third party might contact your insurer directly and then it is important that they have all the facts at hand.
TIP: If you want damage to your own vehicle to be covered, you will need comprehensive cover! Most comprehensive policies also include third party cover, while a standalone third party policy is only for damage to other people’s things.
Then wait for the third party to contact you or your insurer
You do not have to reach out to the third party, rather wait to hear from them directly or they might contact your insurer. The responsibility to take action and what action to take is with the third party, they can either:
- Fix the car themselves and then approach you (or your insurer), threatening legal action for the damage that you’ve caused;
- Keep the car as is to have first hand evidence of the damaged car to strengthen their case and approach you (or your insurer) directly to repair/cover the damages; or
- Get their insurer to fix their car (i.e., they pay their excess) and then leave it with their insurer to approach you (or your insurer) to recover the cost of the damages and if they’re successful, to then have their excess refunded.
TIP: If they reach out to you directly, for any reason, always refer them to your insurer. This service is covered by your policy and your insurer has all the legal expertise and experience to deal with it.
Your insurer will then take it from there
Your insurer will look at exactly what happened, using all the info you and the third party gave them to decide whether the damage caused to the third party’s car is covered. If it is, they will take on the legal responsibility of sorting out the claim with the third party. Remember, you won’t need to talk to the third party – that’s why you have insurance!
Also, if your insurer looks at all the facts and decides that you are not responsible for the accident then they will fight that case with the other party or their insurer.
What if the damage to the other car is not covered?
If your insurer finds that the damage to the other car isn’t covered by your policy then they will step away and you and the third party will have to decide how to proceed. This might happen if you were doing something illegal at the time of the accident, like driving under the influence of alcohol.
What should you do if they do not contact you or your insurer?
The short answer is nothing. The third party might have decided to repair the damage themselves or their insurer might have decided that the details of the accident means that they can’t claim their loss back from you.
What happens if you know the third party?
Let’s say you’ve driven into your kid’s ballet teacher’s new Merc, and she’s livid. She says, “How could you do that?! Give me your insurer’s details!”.
We suggest you avoid saying anything about it being your fault, or offering to get the car fixed or paying for their excess. To give your insurer the best chance of defending you, it’s highly recommended that you don’t admit guilt to the third party or their insurer. It’s best to stick to exchanging facts and contact details.
Here’s what we suggest you say:
- “Is everybody ok? It’s important to get that sorted first.”
- “It seems as though there is some damage to your car – let’s exchange details. Here are my contact details and the details of my insurer.”
- “Can I please have your details and your insurer’s?”
- “Let’s also take pictures of each other’s drivers licences, then we have ID numbers sorted.”
- “Oh and by law we also need to go and report this to the nearest police station within 24 hours.”
- “If you want to discuss how to take this forward it would be best to contact my insurer directly. I will make sure they know about what happened.”
- “I’ve also heard that the quickest way to get your car sorted is usually to just claim from your insurer. Then the insurers can sort out the details of who is responsible for what.”
Try your best to avoid awkward discussions or blame sessions – let the insurers do the talking. After all, it’s why you have the cover.
As you can see, third party cover should be the minimum cover any driver buys. It can prevent a lifetime of paying off debt for something that you don’t own. It is also the cheapest car insurance you can buy, only a couple of cappuccinos really – albeit less tasty.