Accident Claim: What to do After Car Accident

  • A collage of a police officer waving down traffic and cars involved in a past accident in the CBD. File
  • Accidents on Kenyan roads have continued to be a cause of major concern for the country and remain the subject of interest to government and citizens alike.

    However, one can’t always predict an accident or an unfortunate situation which is out of control. Besides, as long as your car is on the road, you are at risk of being involved in an accident.

    It is therefore very important to know what to do in case an accident happens to you or your friend or family.

    This article covers the legal process of getting compensated after an accident and when one shouldn’t file a car insurance claim.

    What is a claim?

    An auto insurance claim is a request made to an insurance company for compensation for damages sustained after a car accident, or for representation or intervention on the insured's behalf when they are liable for damages.

    What is the difference between a first party claim and a third-party claim?

    There are two types of insurance claims, a first party claim and a third party claim.

    While a first-party claim is one you file with your own insurance company, a third party claim is one you file with the insurance provider of another person or business.

    Most insurance holders have coverage for third parties who are injured as a result of their actions.

    The type of claim you file will depend on who was at fault in the accident, the type of accident that occurred, and the extent of your insurance coverage.

    For example, if you caused an accident while driving in your car, you should probably file a first party claim with your auto insurance provider.

    On the other hand, if you were hit by a car while crossing the street or were involved in an accident while a passenger in a car, you should file a third party claim with the driver's auto insurance provider.

    Alternatively, if you were injured while shopping in a store or eating at a restaurant, you can file a third party claim with the business' insurance company.

    The scene of a past road accident at Kambiti on the Embu-Nairobi highway

    What to do after a car accident

    1. Check for injuries

    The situation of being in an accident is critical and it’s really important to stay calm. Breathe deeply and relax down. Observe the surroundings.

    Now check for injuries. If you are injured, do not move. It would be better to stay still. The more collected you are, the better you can handle the situation.

    And, if you are absolutely fine, don’t take any step in a hurry. Check if there is a third party loss, any person injured or vehicle damage. If yes, call an ambulance immediately.

    2. Take preliminary steps

    If it is a minor accident and no one is injured, get out of the traffic first. Move the vehicle to the safest place nearby.

    And if there is a major accident, turn on the hazard lights if possible. This will intimate drivers behind you about the occurrence of an accident ahead.

    3.Exchange information

    Share information with the third party, if involved.

    Collect information about their vehicle, make, model, year of car and license number of third-party individual. Also write down the essential personal information like name, addresses and phone number of persons.

    4.File a report

    If you are involved in a minor accident, go to the local police station and report the accident.

    And in case, it is a major accident, call the police to the incident site. They will inspect the incident, talk to the involved parties, and write up an accident report.

    Filing an official police report regarding the accident would be beneficial while filing a claim.

    Obtain a copy of the report or you can also ask the officer for the report number.

    5. Take photos

    If you have a camera along with you or a smartphone, you can take pictures of vehicles involved in the accident, damage, license plates, etc. at the scene. This kind of documentation aids in getting a claim from insurers.

    6. Make notes

    Things happen so quickly that it’s easy to forget details.

    Recall the incident and note down your recollections about everything happened, including the damage to all cars. If possible, get the contact information of any witnesses.

    7. Contact your insurance agent

    It is very important to contact your insurer as soon as possible to report the accident and damages if any.

    In both cases, whether an accident is major or minor, contacting the car insurance company is important because your agent can go through the incident and help you with the recovery options even if the accident is minor.

    8. Stick with the facts

    From the time of inspection to claim approval, stay polite and truthful. Don’t be nervous and never leave the accident site until everything is taken care of. Your carelessness and hurry may mask the symptoms.

    What is the process of filing a claim?

    1. Schedule an inspection with your agent

    If your vehicle has gone through accidental damage, it becomes your duty to schedule an inspection appointment with your insurer to determine the repairing cost you will get as a reimbursement.

    Call your insurer and fix an appointment with him. The insurer can recommend the repairing shop and you are completely free to choose the best repairing service or shop.

    2. Talk to your insurance adjuster

    Insurance adjuster is the person who investigates all the insurance claims in order to determine the extent of liability that can be given by the insurance company.

    So, you should speak with your claim adjuster and discuss the vehicle’s damage, police report, statements given by witnesses, if any.

    A file photo of wrecked car after hitting a tree.

    After reviewing the documents and clarifications, the insurance adjuster will determine faults and provide you with an estimated cost that will be covered against the accident by your insurance company.

    3. Stay updated with the claim status

    Most of the insurance firms are present on the web these days. Such firms permit you to check the status of your claim online. You can view the status of your claim with a particular reference number.

    And if your insurance company is not present online, then you can keep in contact with your insurer to stay updated with the status of your insurance claim.

    Some of the insurance companies also provide text message service to inform their customers about status.

    4. Get your repaired vehicle back

    As soon as the claim adjuster finalizes the coverage amount, your insurer can guide you on how to receive your claim amount.

    The insurers may pay the amount electronically direct to your account or they can also pay to the repairing shop directly. This way you can get your vehicle repaired and in case, you have injuries, medical expenses are also paid by the company.

    If you choose the right car insurance company and best insurance plan for your vehicle, you will get coverage for all the accidental loss or medical expenses for bodily injuries.

    Car Insurance companies in Kenya provide different types of insurance covers for vehicles.

    But it is advisable to purchase an insurance plan (comprehensive) that will cover all types of losses and provide the highest level of protection for your vehicle.

    When not to file a car insurance claim

    If you have never been involved in an accident, you would be forgiven to think that filing an insurance claim is a good idea each and every time you are involved in an accident.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. There are various situations where you are better off not filing an insurance claim. Check them out below:

    1. When your claim is less than the deductible

    Before filing the claim, the first thing that should come to your mind is your deductible amount.

    The deductible is the amount you have to pay out of your own pocket before the insurance company will pay to settle a claim. 

    If the claim amount is less than the deductible or little bit more, it does not make sense to file a claim.

    You can afford to pay for the costs of damage to your vehicle, or the costs of the repair are close to or not much over the cost of your deductible.

    If your policy has a deductible of Ksh800, you might not want to bother filing a Ksh900 claim, as it will only net you cost of Ksh100, but the claim could count against you one day in the eyes of your insurer especially if you end up filing more than one claims with small damages within a few years.

    If your expense is less than the deductible, then you almost certainly will want to not file the claim, in order to keep your record as clean as possible.

    2. Minor Accidents

    This is when there’s little to no damage to someone else’s vehicle or property.

    If you had been through a one-car accident and you’re not injured, or if you are, you’re able to pay for your medical expenses yourself. Then there is no point to file a claim and ruin your claim history for small damage that can easily be covered by yourself.

    Many cars are involved in minor accidents on our roads on a daily basis, and if they all made claims, insurance would soon lose meaning.

    If you are involved in a minor accident, it is always better to try to resolve the matter with the other driver rather than making a claim.

    When you make a claim, you may lose your excess protector and you will be required to reinstate it.

    In this case, it's better off to handle any issues where your total costs would be less than the excess you will be required to pay.

    In addition, making frivolous claims also makes you less desirable as a customer, and denies you the long terms benefits of a no-claims-discounts. If the accident is minor and will no cost much, don’t file a claim.

    3. If a claim might end up raising your insurance premiums

    It all depends on your driving record and previous claim history that whether your insurance rates will go up or not.

    If you already made many small claims earlier then yes, it may end up raising your insurance rates. But if you had a clean driving history and had never filed any claim and the damage is affordable then why file any claim.  

    If the repair costs for your car are more than your collision deductible, you’ll have to weigh whether the insurance payout is worth the risk of a rate increase later.

    4. When the law is against you

    Driving illegally is a very dangerous thing. You can lose your car, and can also end up in jail depending on the veracity of the accident.

    That said, it is possible to find yourself on the wrong side of the law unintentionally.

    In those cases, you need to be clear about your options. The first thing all insurance companies will check is whether your car was legally on the road.

    If an accident should happen and you discover that either your insurance was expired, or that your driving license had expired, then you are better off not filing a claim.

    The insurance company will not honor such claims, and it will also get you into trouble with the law. You are better off dealing with the matter on your own.

    It is advisable, however, not to drive illegally.

    5.Failure of maintenance

    You should be aware that your insurance policy does not cover damages or costs that result from mechanical wear and tear.

    For instance, you cannot ask your insurer to replace your tires because they have grown old. You also cannot ask your insurer to pay for the costs of servicing your car.

    These are expected costs and hence do not fall into the category of risks that an insurance company will cover.

    Therefore don’t file a claim with your insurer in relation to mechanical wear, or electrical faults. Your insurer will not honor such claims.

    6. You have filed recent claims

    If you file claims more than average and so frequently for even little damages then you are spoiling your credit history.

    Again getting into an accident after a recent claim may increase your insurance premium rates significantly.

    Even if your claim would be more than the deductible but your claim history appears extensive, you could be setting yourself up for higher rates.

    Insurance companies look unfavorably on customers who have a history of filing claims, and if you have a history of filing a lot of claims, then they view you as a costly customer and therefore will potentially raise your rates or refuse to pay any of your claims.

    7. When you can pay for your Loss

    If the damage to your vehicle holds the value of a few thousand Kenyan shillings or less, and you might pay out of pocket rather than filing a claim, try to do so.

    You will surely be interested to avoid the risk of paying higher premiums in the upcoming years and getting a record that can follow you with special discounts or lower premiums and even beneficial if you are looking for insurance from a different provider.

    Note: The the whole purpose of car insurance is to protect consumers from potential financial disaster, not a small financial inconvenience. 

    A file photo of wrecked car.