askST: How to make sure you can make an insurance claim after a traffic accident

If you are involved in a traffic accident, take photos of the scene and the damage to all vehicles, and exchange contact details with the other parties. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Vehicle owner Lim Gee Wee, 44, recently wrote to The Straits Times Forum about his plight of not being able to claim from the alleged perpetrator after getting rear-ended.

ST looks at what you should do when you get into an accident while driving, and how to make sure your claims are not rejected.

1. What should I do at the scene immediately after the collision?

If anyone is injured, call for medical assistance and the police immediately.

In cases where there is a fatality or someone needs to be taken to hospital, a police report must be made.

Make sure to take photos of the scene and capture the damage to all vehicles involved in the accident.

Exchange particulars, including your vehicle number, contact details and information on your vehicle insurer, with the other party. Failure to do so constitutes a traffic offence.

2. How do I protect myself and make sure I can file claims against the other party?

Report the accident to your insurer within 24 hours, regardless of whether you are at fault, and even if a private settlement has been reached between you and the other party.

This is a requirement for the insurer to take on your case should the other party file a claim against you, or if you wish to file a claim against the other party.

If you do not do so, your insurer may, in the worst case, repudiate liability, after which you have to foot your own legal bills and other costs if the other party makes a claim against you.

The insurer may also dock your no-claims discount or refuse to renew your policy when the insured period is up.

Note that filing a police report is not the same as making a report to your insurer. Reporting to your insurer also does not automatically lead to a deduction of your no-claim discount.

3. What happens if the other party does not report the incident to his insurer? Can I still get my money?

Yes, as long as you report it to your insurer within 24 hours of the accident. Even if the other party's insurer repudiates responsibility, your insurance company will still foot your bill.

They will then take the matter up with the other party's insurance company. This is probably the easiest way.

You can also try taking your vehicle to an authorised motor workshop to see if it will take on your case. Motor workshops can also take steps to make claims from the other party's insurer, though they will probably inflate repair costs.

4. If I did not make a report to my insurer within 24 hours, what can I do to still try to get my money back?

You should call your insurance company to ask what your next steps are, though you may be on your own when it comes to recovering costs.

In such situations, you can file a complaint at the Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre, applicable for non-injury motor claims below $3,000. No legal costs are charged and a ruling is binding on the insurance firm.

You can also e-mail the other motorist and his insurer about the accident to kick-start a legal timeline where the insurance company and the claimant can negotiate before legal action is commenced.

You can search for the other party's insurer on a Land Transport Authority database for a nominal sum of about $7.

You can also hire a lawyer to do this and handle the settlement of your claims. If no legal writs are required, the bill will likely be less than $1,000.

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