JOHANNESBURG - The annual festive season rituals of end-of-year parties and holiday travel are about to begin - and along with them headlines and awareness campaigns about carnage on roads.

The average driver in South Africa has a 15 to 20percent chance of being involved in a car accident each year. During this time of the year, many people take long trips, which increases their possibility of being involved in collisions.

What's more, the risk of accidents or damage as a result of weather conditions like hail and thunderstorms rises in some parts of the country.

There are four things you should not do if you are involved in an accident during the December and January holidays. These errors may give an insurer grounds to reject a claim or impose extra costs on the policyholder:

1. Admitting guilt: It's natural to want to apologise if you bump into another car because you took your eyes off the road for a second, especially if the other driver is angry or you feel bad about dampening their festive spirit. But under the terms of your insurance contract, you will have agreed to not admit guilt when you're involved in an accident.

Your insurance provider takes legal responsibility should other people involved in the incident or their insurance providers wish to sue for the damage you have caused. Your insurance provider will look at the facts and decide whether to defend the case and seek reparations from other parties or pay up.

If you admit that you were at fault, you put your insurance provider at a legal disadvantage and hamper its ability to fight the case. Your duty is to place the facts on the record in your statement to the police and in your claim. Leave the rest in the hands of the insurance firm's legal team.

If you admit guilt, your insurance provider could argue that you have broken your legal agreement with it. In a worst-case scenario, that could leave you legally liable for the cost of repairs to your car and to claims from other people involved in the accident or their insurers.

2: Allowing an unauthorised provider to tow your car away: You should not allow the first tow truck driver on the scene to take your vehicle away. Instead, you should contact your car insurance provider's emergency number and ask which provider you should use. The reason for this is that your car insurance provider will have preferential agreements with certain tow truck providers.

3. Driving away without getting contact details: You should not leave the scene of an accident without getting contact details from other parties involved in the accident and from potential witnesses. This forms part of your responsibility to enable your insurance provider to defend your case and recover costs from parties at fault in the incident.

Feel free to take some photos of the scene and damage to vehicles to substantiate your statement to the police.

If you are in a dangerous situation, head for the nearest police station to report the accident and ask others involved in the accident to meet you there to swop contact details.

4. Failing to report the accident to the nearest police station and medical facility: Under South African law, you should report an accident to the nearest police station within 24 hours following an accident on a public road. If you consumed alcohol on the day preceding the accident, it is wise to present yourself to a medical facility for an immediate blood alcohol test.

Sumarie Greybe is a co-founder at Naked, a next-generation insurance business.

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