Getting into a traffic accident is an inevitability for many drivers. In 2016, the Singapore Police Force reported 10,828 traffic accidents in Singapore. This figure only accounts for accidents resulting in fatalities or injuries, so one can only imagine how many more traffic accidents occur each year.
Making a claim after being involved in a traffic accident may be complicated. The claim process may vary depending on the circumstances – whether anyone has been injured, whether the car or other property has been damaged, whether the motorist(s) can be found.
Nevertheless, most traffic accident claims generally comprise 4 simple steps:
#1 Gather evidence of the traffic accident
The first step is always to gather evidence of the traffic accident. This will help you in providing your insurer or a third party with the necessary details to substantiate your claim. Evidence of the accident would also be extremely helpful in the event of a dispute as to who was responsible for or what occurred during the traffic accident.
If it is not a case of a hit-and-run, make sure to exchange particulars with all the parties involved in the accident. Important particulars to obtain are:
- Full name
- Identification number
- Telephone number
Also, remember to take note of important details of the traffic accident, including:
- The vehicle numbers
- The date, time and location of the accident
- The weather and road conditions at the time of the accident
Finally, ensure that you take pictures or draw a sketch plan of the accident scene. This is to provide evidence of what happened at the accident. Make sure to capture:
- The position of the vehicles in relation to the surrounding area and landmarks
- The damage to your vehicle, along with the license plate
- The damage to the other vehicles, along with the license plates
If the traffic accident has resulted in injuries or fatalities, make a Traffic Police report and obtain a medical report of your injuries.
#2 Decide what to claim for
Next, you should decide what you want to claim for. Generally, you can claim for property damage or personal injury.
Under property damage, you can claim the:
- Costs of transporting your vehicle to the repair workshop
- Costs of repairing your vehicle
- Costs of obtaining a substitute vehicle for the period your vehicle is under repair
On the other hand, under personal injury, you can claim:
- Some amount to account for your pain and suffering
- The costs of your medical fees
- The loss of your salary occasioned by your inability to work due to your injuries
- Bereavement damages, in cases of fatalities
#3 Decide who to claim from
After deciding what to claim, you also need to decide who to claim from. There are three possible sources to claim from:
- Your insurer
- The other motorist(s) involved in the accident
- The Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB)
In most cases, it may be easier to claim from your insurer under your insurance policy. Insurance policies may differ, so it is important to always check your own policy to find out specifically what it covers and how to go about making a claim.
Claiming from your insurer saves you the trouble of having to make a claim against the other motorist(s) and his/her insurers, who may be less willing to compensate you. If you claim from your own insurer first, your insurer may then decide to recover the amount paid to you from the other motorist and his/her insurers.
However, it is important to note that there may be certain drawbacks if you claim from your insurer. Some insurance policies contain an “excess” clause, which states that you must bear a minimal amount of loss if you make a claim. This means two things. First, your claim must exceed a certain minimum amount. Second, if your claim exceeds that amount, you can only claim the excess. For example, if the minimum amount is $100, and your claim is #300, you will be able to claim $200.
Claiming from your insurer also means that you may lose your no-claims discount and the price of your premium may increase. This is a discount on your premium calculated based on the number of years in which you have no made a claim on your car insurance. However, if your insurers successfully recover the amount paid to you from the other motorist(s) and his/her insurers, your no-claims discount may not be affected.
In certain situations, you may wish to claim from the other motorist(s) involved in the traffic accident. You may claim directly from the motorist himself/herself in a private settlement, or from his/her insurer. This may be when you are unable to claim under your own insurance policy. For example, if the damage you have suffered is not covered by your insurance policy. While this may be a more difficult and lengthy process, it will not impact your own insurance premiums which will likely rise if you choose to claim from your own insurance.
If you do decide to claim directly from the motorist(s) or his/her insurer, it may be advisable for you to engage a lawyer to assist you. The lawyer can help with formulating the claim and drafting letters of claim to the other party/parties, negotiating a settlement with them, or even arguing your case should your claim proceed to court.
Motor Insurance Bureau
In cases of personal injury, another option may be to apply to the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB). The MIB is an independent body that compensates people injured in road accidents, if the person(s) who caused the accident cannot be found or is/are uninsured.
#4 Make the claim as soon as possible
Finally, be sure to make your claim within the stipulated time limit.
If you are claiming from your insurer, it may be best to lodge your claim within the next 24 hours or the next working day. However, the specific time limits for each insurance policy may differ.
If you are claiming from the other motorist(s) involved in the accident, you should also inform him/her of your claim as soon as possible. In doing so, you should bear in mind that if the other party disputes your claim, you may have to file a claim in court. The claim that you file in court must also be filed within a certain time. Generally, the time limit is 6 years, assuming you are suing the other party for negligent driving. Where you are claiming for personal injuries, the time limit is shortened to 3 years.
It can be useful to get advice from a lawyer even before a victim of an accident approaches a workshop to carry out repairs. There are consequences once the workshop quotes for and begin work in the repairs. They will essentially be putting in their version of the facts without considering how the courts will look at it in terms of liability, which may not represent the truth and may not be favorable to your claim. We have seen cases where a victim of an accident has ended up paying for the repairs and at the same time have had their no claim bonus affected. In addition to all this, criminal prosecutions that might take place which may have implications on your claim. It is therefore advisable to have an advising lawyer work closely with your workshop on your claim.
#5 Foreign vehicles
If you are involved in a traffic accident with a foreign vehicle, you should make a police report as soon as possible even if there are no injuries or fatalities.
In gathering evidence, be sure to take a photograph of the road tax disc of the vehicle, if it is a Malaysian vehicle. This will aid you in claiming from the motorist’s Malaysian insurers.
In making the claim, you still have the option of either claiming from your own insurer, or claiming from the other party/parties involved in the accident. It may be more difficult to claim from the other party/parties in this situation, since you are claiming against someone from another legal jurisdiction.
If you are unable to claim from your own insurer or from the other party/parties, you have the additional option of approaching the General Insurance Association, or its Malaysian counterpart Persatuan Insurans Am Malaysia, if the other vehicle is from Malaysia. These associations may be able to assist you with claiming from the other party/parties involved in the accident.
Need a lawyer?
If you are thinking of claiming against another party/parties involved in an accident or would like assistance with your insurance claim, you can talk to a lawyer by getting a Quick Consult. When you get an AsiaLawNetwork Quick Consult, a lawyer will call you back within 1-2 days for a transparent, flat fee of S$49 to answer your questions and give you practical legal guidance on your potential next steps.
You may be interested in these articles:
- What to do after a traffic accident in Singapore – Tips from a lawyer
- How to Defend Against a Traffic Accident Claim
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.