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What to do if your car is written off

It’s stressful enough if your car is written off by insurance, but if you’re unsure of the processes involved, it’s even worse.
Barend Smit, Marketing Director of MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions and car insurance options, explains that your car is considered a ‘write off’ when, after an accident, your insurer deems the cost of repairs higher than the insured value of your car. “When you’re involved in an accident it’s obviously a highly stressful situation, especially if anyone has been hurt. Try to keep calm and ensure you get all the necessary information required,” he says.
The following steps are important, if you’ve been involved in an accident:

  • Record the date, time and location of the accident.
  • Note the make, model and license plate numbers of all vehicles involved in the accident.
  • Collect the personal details (name and ID number) and insurance details of all the drivers involved.
  • Get the contact details of any witnesses at the scene too. This may help you in the future if there is ever a dispute.
  • Report the accident to the police station in order to get a case number, which you’ll need for insurance purposes.
  • Submit your accident report to your insurance company.

After you’ve notified your insurer of the accident, they’ll send an assessor to look at the damages. They will calculate how much repairs will cost and assess the car’s cash value. “In some cases, it’s viable to repair the car, and in others it is safer and more economical to write it off. If your car is written off, and it’s still under financing, you must let your financing company know. Technically, the car is still owned by the financier until your insurance company settles the claim and pays the outstanding financing amounts to them,” says Smit.
Your payout from your insurance company will largely depend on your excess (the amount you pay first when you make a claim), the amount you still owe if your car is being financed and the depreciation of your car (the decreasing value of your car based on wear and tear).
“If you believe your car can be repaired economically and that it shouldn’t be written off, you can either escalate the issue at your insurance company to find a resolution, or you can appeal to the Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance,” advises Smit.

Types of insurance cover

Various options are available but the most extensive option available is comprehensive car insurance, which covers you in the event of accidental damage, theft and hijacking. It also covers your car for damage caused by weather conditions such as storms and floods.
Comprehensive insurance also covers you if you are responsible for an accident and need to pay for the repair of damages to the other car.
“Comprehensive insurance might be the most expensive type of insurance, but it offers the most cover,” says Smit. “Insurance might be deemed a ‘grudge purchase’ but it can protect you from disastrous financial loss if you’re involved in an accident in a vehicle that’s not covered by insurance. It’s a fact that many cars on South African roads are not insured so it’s important to protect yourself by investing in insurance.”
Third Party Only is another type of car insurance available to South Africans. this does not give you any protection or financial assistance if your vehicle is damaged but it does protect you if you cause damage to someone else’s vehicle, or if you injure another person. This type of coverage is the most affordable because of how limited the coverage is.
Third Party with Fire and Theft protects you for damage you cause to other people and/or their vehicles, and your vehicle is also covered in the event of fire, theft or hijacking. There is no coverage if your vehicle is involved in an accident with another vehicle.