Making Claims for Motor Accidents
If you have been involved in a motor accident, after the immediate aftermath of the accident, the most pressing issue for you would be to settle claims, such as the repair work to the vehicle, or hospitalisation bills. This article seeks to provide an overview of how you can claim and what you could possibly claim for.
Who Can You Claim From?
Claims for compensation can be made via the following ways:
1. Claim against your insurer
The procedures for claims after a motor accident vary from insurer to insurer. There may be an ‘excess’ clause in your insurance policy. This means that your claim must exceed the excess amount in order to be valid, and your insurance company will only pay the difference between your claim and the excess amount. For example, if the excess amount is $700 and your claim is $500, the insurers will not pay out at all. However, if your claim is $1,000, your insurers will only pay $300. You will also lose your no-claim bonus.
2. Claim against the other party
Third party claim costs are typically much higher compared to claims against your insurer. This could be due to several reasons such as:
- There may be hidden damage to the vehicle that is not visible externally
- Damaged items are replaced, rather than repaired, for newer cars
- On top of repair costs, the claim costs would include other costs such as legal fees and loss of use
If you wish to bring the claim against the other party involved in the accident, you will have to do so by yourself as an own damage claim. Hence you are encouraged to lodge the damage claim under your own insurance policy. After you have been indemnified, your insurer will then commence recovery against the third party’s insurer if they find that they can prove the liability of the other party. If recovery against the third party is successful, your insurer will not dock your No Claims Discount at the next renewal.
However, should you insist on bringing the claim against the other party directly, it is advised that you see a lawyer. Lawyers can represent you only if you authorise them to do so, usually by signing a warrant to act. If you do not know how or where to find a lawyer, contact your insurer for advice, or approach one of our experienced lawyers. A claim may eventually be resolved through litigation or private settlements (without the need for trial). You can obtain the other party’s insurance particulars from the Land Transport Authority for S$5.35 (GST inclusive). The enquiry number is 1800-553 5229.
3. Claiming in hit-and-run cases
If you suffer personal injuries as a result of an accident and do not know the particulars of the other party that caused the accident, you may make a claim to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau.
4. FIDReC Non-Injury Motor Accident Scheme
The FIDReC (Financial Industrial Disputes Resolution Centre Ltd) is provided for non-injury motor claims below $3,000. There are no lawyers involved in this scheme. It is an avenue to resolve disputes directly between consumers and the insurance companies, which are not their own. You may visit FIDReC’s website for more information.
What Can You Claim For?
A person in a motor accident can claim for damages and costs.
Damages are compensation for the losses suffered in the accident. There are three types of damages – general damages, special damages, and bereavement damages:
1. General damages
General damages compensate the victim for pain and suffering as a result of his personal injuries. How much you can claim as general damages for your personal injuries depends on guidelines from earlier cases.
2. Special damages
Special damages compensate the victim for expenses incurred, which can include the following items:
- Medical fees
- Transport costs
- Repair costs
- Substitute vehicle rental costs
- Loss of salary
- CPF savings contributions before the trial
- Survey fee
- LTA fee
Therefore it is essential to keep the original receipts for these expenses.
3. Bereavement damages
If the matter makes it to court, the judge or registrar will decide whether the defendant is liable for the claimed damages. He may also decide to slash the quantum of damages awarded due to the contributory negligence of the plaintiff.
Costs refer to the legal costs incurred in making or defending a claim. If you lose a case, you may have to pay the costs of your own lawyer, in addition to the costs (or part of) of the winning party. For more information on costs, click here.
Limitations to Claims
There is a time limit to claims that can be made in order to discourage claimants from sleeping on their actions, and to bring about a definite end to litigation. If a claimant files a claim after the prescribed limitation period, the plea of limitation will serve as a defence to absolve the Defendant of all liability, and the claimant’s action will be deemed to have been time-barred.
Generally speaking, actions for damages in a negligence suit may not be brought after the expiration of 6 years from the date on which the cause of action had occurred. Where the damages claimed are for personal injuries to the claimant or anyone else, the claim must be made within 3 years from the date of injury, or the earliest date on which the claimant had knowledge of the injury.
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