Being unfamiliar with the contents of insurance cover, or failing to provide the information required, or altering the information required often sees dedicated insurance premium payers lose out, at the very last stage, on the benefits of cover.
There is definitely a right and wrong way to go about making a successful insurance claim,” says Christelle Colman, insurance expert at Old Mutual Insure. “Since you pay a premium, it is essential that you make the effort to understand and complete the claims process accurately and in full to ensure your right to a fair settlement,” she adds.
Getting the claims process right starts way before you even have an incident or need to lodge a claim.
“Policyholders should do their homework upfront,” says Colman. Understanding exactly what is covered in your policy is essential. Don’t wait until you have an accident before you read your policy and find out “that you have submitted the wrong information or claimed unnecessarily for things that you are not covered for,” cautions Colman.
Claims should also be logged quickly, as and when the damage or loss occurs, not days later. Policyholders should also not admit liability even if, in their opinion, they are liable. Liability is something that only an insurance or a legal process can decide. Individuals should not take it upon themselves to apportion liability after a car accident for instance. “Liability is not something laymen are equipped to decide no matter how cut and dried it may appear to them,” she adds.
Policyholders will be left in a difficult position legally if they have admitted liability and it turns out, after an insurance or legal process, that they are in fact not liable. Instead, “policyholders should merely record all the details of the accident or loss, let concerned parties know that they have cover where relevant, and then leave it to the insurance companies involved to assess the loss, apportion liability and settle costs for damages where applicable,” advises Colman.
In cases of burglary or robbery household contents policyholders should let the police know and get a valid case number. Despite popular opinion on police performance, “goods are often recovered and items, especially cars, do often get found,” reports Colman.
Having a case number can, in the long run, “save policyholders a lot of money by adding to the accuracy, validity and efficiency of the claims and recovery process,” she adds.
It is important to get as much of the right information at the time and scene of the accident. Colman understands that after an accident, burglary or robbery people are very stressed, often forgetting things, failing to write down information like registration, licence or identity numbers. This is where, “new technology can make a difference,” says Colman. These days it makes much more sense to simply take a picture on a cell phone of the cars and registration numbers involved, as well as the required license cards and the identity numbers. “This only takes a few seconds and even if you are shaken up and forget things, you’ll always have the photographs to refer to on your phone,” says Colman.
There has been a lot of digital innovation around dealing with roadside and other emergency situations. Most insurers have apps for things like burst geysers, roadside assistance, injury etc. In these instances, again, “preparation is key,” says Colman. “Be sure to download – in advance - all the relevant apps provided by your insurer,” urges Colman. That way, “when your geyser bursts at 2:00 in the morning and your passage is flooded with water, all you have to do is hit the burst geyser button on the insurance app. The process will happen automatically from there”.
Similarly, if you are in an accident or your car breaks down on the side of the road, hitting the roadside emergency or assistance app initiates a process like Uber, allowing you to track the emergency vehicle en route to you. Using the roadside assistance app also, “ensures that the right towing company and insurer-appointed emergency services arrive so that you are not stuck with additional costs for towing and do not have to pay large fees to have your car released from the wrong panelbeater” she adds.
Regardless of how you collect and report the information required for the claims process, “honesty is essential,” advises Colman. Never lie, flee from the scene of an accident if you think you are over the alcohol or speed limit, switch drivers, or add extra items to the list of contents stolen in a burglary. “Lies, inconsistencies, different drivers, differing versions of the same incident, items not mentioned in the policy but claimed, are very easy to spot and lead to a number of claims being repudiated,” says Colman. It is also fraud to lie during an insurance claim. “Criminal proceedings can be instituted against you by an insurer where there is sufficient evidence of dishonesty,” adds Colman.
In today’s world there are very few excuses for not getting the claims process right. Insurance policies represent real money paid out every month. To ensure that this money is money well spent and delivers real peace of mind that you will be paid out when you experience loss or damage, policyholders should use the technology and the systems available that make insurance claims quick, easy and accurate.
All policyholders need to do in advance, is to “understand the contents of their policy, be aware of the information requirements in case of damage or loss, and download the relevant apps to assist,” says Colman.