Motor accident claims now more likely to be settled out of court

Motorists in Singapore who get into accidents are now much more likely to negotiate and settle claims out of court than take their grievance before a judge.

The number of motor accident claims filed at the State Courts has dropped by a third over the last six years, according to figures released to The Straits Times yesterday.

There were 9,160 such claims made last year, compared to 13,854 in 2011.

The State Courts attributed the drop to "pre-action processes" and resources dedicated over the last few years to guide parties through out-of-court negotiations.

This began with non-injury accidents and was extended to those involving personal injury in 2011.

In 2014, the Courts also produced a motor accident guide book designed to help people better understand what they should do after an accident and gauge their level of liability based on different scenarios.

"These pre-action processes allow parties to negotiate their terms and exchange documents and information on the accident and injuries, if any, before filing their claims in Court," said the State Courts' spokesman.

"These measures are likely to have contributed to a reduction in the number of motor accident claims filed in Court as parties with motor accident claims can settle their disputes before they enter the court system."

In Practice Directions, which have been refined over the years, as recently as last, the Court spells out steps parties - motorists, insurers and lawyers - can take to make and settle claims. Recent amendments include encouraging parties to use single joint experts for motor surveyors and medical experts.

Yesterday, the Court also launched an electronic version of the motor accident guide.

General Insurance Association of Singapore chief executive Derek Teo said: "With clearly defined illustrations on accident scenarios in the guide, parties in dispute are more amenable to reach a settlement."

Mr Lim Biow Chuan, president of the Consumers Association of Singapore, said: "Hopefully, the information will encourage all parties to resolve their claims more expeditiously, which will reduce costs and in the long run benefit all consumers with lower insurance premiums."

Judges, too, have referred to the guide when adjudicating cases involving motor accident claims in the past.

The online guide, which is authored by judges of the State Courts, can be purchased from Google Play Books at $7.78.

• Additional reporting by Zhaki Abdullah

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 23, 2017, with the headline 'Motor accident claims now more likely to be settled out of court'. Print Edition | Subscribe