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Tips for Successful Claims

In the case of claims, it’s when the claims officer hearing your righteous indignation at the careless driving of a Third Party who has hit you, asks one of those questions, like “OK, now, have you taken down any witness details or photographed the position of the two vehicles?”

Often, I put a lot of blame on TV shows like CSI Miami, which suggests to the world that police departments will look at a scrape on a vehicle and determine who was in which lane, how they moved, at what speed, precisely how far, all by walking around the vehicle in a pair of aviator sunglasses. In fact, in a dispute between drivers where both alleged the other one changed lanes and hit their vehicle, a panel beater promised a client that they could tell from the damage that the Third Party was at fault. It became very difficult to explain that this wasn’t the case; it was just as easy for the Third Party’s panel beater to say “no, from my inspection, the damage indicates you are at fault!” and a tit-for-tat argument takes place.

Many people think that in the event of a claim, either you can be held at fault, or the Third Party can be held at fault. In fact, there is a third option known as Each Bears Own Costs or EBO, which is where conflicting versions of events and a lack of an impartial tiebreaker result in neither party being very happy.

This becomes even more challenging in the world of buses, as courts and arbitrators tend to assume large, long, heavy vehicles are more likely to cross lanes or have difficulty stopping, and lean in favour of smaller vehicles, when there are conflicting versions of events.

Here are some tips that may help you to keep your company’s claims costs down in the event of an incident:

Keep an accident checklist in the vehicle. The stress of a collision may make you forget what things you need to do. A checklist for the driver may help them take down more information at the scene, such as witness details, additional photographs, a version of events while fresh, and full Third Party details.

Which leads me to my next point:

  • Take down the full Third Party driver details wherever possible- name, address, telephone number, license number. This seems pretty self-evident, but an ongoing issue has been obtaining partial details only, such as just a name and license number, or the police event number. The insurer cannot simply contact the RTA or the police to obtain the details, they must instead apply for registration searches or request and pay for a copy of the finalized police report, which can take many weeks to finally obtain. In such cases, even if you’re not at fault, the insurer will charge you the policy excess and refund once recovery is successful. Getting full details helps them waive excess more easily. A photograph of the Third Party’s license itself is usually sufficient. 
  • Find an independent witness. A passenger on board is acceptable, but someone outside the vehicle is ideal. 
  • Where safe, take photos at the location of the accident. If you can safely take a photo that shows the position of the two vehicles at the time of impact before moving them to the side of the road to exchange details, it can help resolve differences in versions of events. Don’t go leaping into traffic to do it, though! 
  • CCTV is best. A the recent Bus NSW show there were a huge number of companies offering extremely affordable CCTV systems for buses. These have proved invaluable in a number of instances for our clients, not just in the event of an accident, but also in relation to claims from passengers on board, and in the event of malicious damage. But from an accident perspective, the increase in CCTV footage has meant that we have been able to successfully dispute and recover our clients’ costs from a number of Third Party claims which would have otherwise resulted in either an EBO outcome or a ruling against the bus. 
  • If you hit a parked vehicle, you’re at fault. Even if they’re parked in a bus zone. I know, it doesn’t seem fair. Disputing liability will only increase your claims costs. 
  • If you hit a vehicle in the rear, you’re (generally) at fault. The Australian Road Rules (126 specifically) require you to keep a safe distance so that the driver can, if necessary, stop to avoid a collision. So if a collision eventuates, the distance wasn’t enough. Unless the Third Party is charged by the police for dangerous driving or you have CCTV footage which shows this dangerous driving, they’ll hold you at fault. 
  • Lodge your claim early. Even if your vehicle doesn’t need urgent repairs, settling Third Party claims early helps keep costs down, which in turn keeps your premium down at renewal.

 If you’re ever unsure of what to do in the event of or following an accident, call BusInsure on 1800 BUSINSURE (1800 287 467).

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