Filing an insurance claim can feel like a complicated and confusing undertaking, especially following a traumatic loss or for first-timers unfamiliar with the process. As such, many claimants fall victim to costly mistakes, compromising the outcome of their claim due to a lack of supporting documentation or prior negligence.
Many insurers now offer easy online systems designed to streamline and accelerate the claim procedure. Following a loss – be it a theft or a car accident – the first step is to report the incident to the police, as you will require a case number. You’ll then need to lodge the claim with your insurer, providing further documentation as needed. The claim will then be assessed taking into account the circumstances surrounding the loss and the terms of your insurance contract.
It’s important to avoid some of these common mistakes when lodging your claim:
- Tread carefully
The roadworthiness of your vehicle is of critical importance. Essentially, as the vehicle owner, the onus is on you to ensure that your car is properly maintained to reduce potential risks caused by worn tyres or other complications that could arise as a result of neglect. Should your tyre tread be found to be too thin, thus increasing the likelihood of an accident in slippery conditions and essentially rendering your vehicle’s presence on the road illegal, your claim could be in jeopardy. Ensure that your car undergoes regular checks, and keep a close eye on your tyre tread, ensuring that you maintain a minimum tread depth of 1 mm across all four tyres.
- Weathering the weather
Weather-related damage to your property can often arise as a result of poor maintenance. It is highly advised to perform regular checks, keep gutters clear to prevent build-up or breakages, and check for cracks or leaks that could lead to water-related damage. It’s equally important to keep your garden well maintained, cutting back errant branches that could present potential risks in the event of violent storms, and to reduce fire risks by sweeping chimneys or applying fire retardant treatments to thatched roofs.
- Register the regular driver
The regular driver of your vehicle is considered the person who is most often behind the wheel. Should your child drive your car more often than you for example, they would then be considered the regular driver of the vehicle and should be listed as such in your contract. If the regular driver be involved in an accident and be found not to be listed on your policy in such a capacity, your claim may be at affected. Keep your insurer updated should the regular driver of your vehicle change for any reason so as to avoid costly complications.
- Keep tabs on current value
Given the ever-increasing cost of living, it’s important to ensure that your insured items are covered for their current replacement value to prevent the need to cover the difference yourself. As part of your annual policy renewal, make sure to increase the replacement value of your insured goods based on what it would currently cost you to replace them, thus avoiding shortfalls that could leave you out of pocket.
- Not all car trackers are created equal
Car tracking devices are equipped with differing levels of functionality. Depending on the make and model of your car as well as the terms of your insurance contract, you may be required to have a specific type of tracking device installed, so make sure to check with your insurer to avoid putting any potential claims at risk. It’s equally important to keep tabs on monitoring reports and to perform regular checks to ensure it’s in working order.
- Keep your information up to date
Should your personal situation change for any reason – perhaps you’ve moved to a new house or bought a new car – this could have an impact on your risk profile, and thus needs to be communicated to your insurer. Should you be involved in an accident or fall victim to theft, you might have problems lodging your claim if your personal information on file fails to correspond with your current reality. Keep in regular contact with your insurer and ensure that the information you provide is accurate and verifiable.
- Disputing a claim
Remember that if you feel your claim has been evaluated unfairly, you can log a complaint with the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance, who will take into consideration the specifics of your case and issue an impartial ruling. It’s worth bearing in mind that the Ombud releases an annual report detailing the number of claims received by each insurer, and how many were overturned. This report should give you an accurate idea of how your insurer fares in terms of overall fairness.
Filing an insurance claim needn’t be an arduous or stressful experience, provided you’re equipped with the relevant knowledge and that you avoid some of these common mistakes. When it comes to insurance, honesty and transparency are key, and provided you adhere to the terms listed in your policy document, you shouldn’t encounter any difficulties.
Karabo Kopeka is head of Claims at MiWay Insurance.