What to do when your car is written off after a crash

<i>Image: iStock</i>
<i>Image: iStock</i>

There's nothing worse than being inconvenienced by a car crash, but even more so when your car is written off by the insurance, but if you don’t know the processes involved, you could be in for a nightmare. 

A car is considered written off when, after the accident, the insurer deems the cost of repairs higher than the insured value of your car. 

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 what the car’s cash value is.

"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,” explains Barend Smit, Marketing Director of MotorHappy.

                             Image: iStock

If you’re involved in an accident and if you’re able to, take note of the make, model and license plate numbers of all vehicles involved in the accident. Get contact details of the people involved as well as any witnesses on the scene. Smit points out that this is important because they might help you in the future if there is a dispute.

Then report the accident at the nearest police station in order to get a case number, which you’ll need for insurance purposes. Wheels24's Janine Van der Post says: "Despite smaller or minor incidents now allowed to be submitted online, serious incidents with injuries occur, or someone is killed needs to be physically reported at the nearest police station.

"If more than five vehicles are involved in an incident, online submissions are also not permitted."

READ | Involved in an accident? Report it online and get a case number too!

Submit the accident report to your insurance company.

"If your insurance company decides your car is write off, the pay-out you receive from your insurance company will largely depend on your insurance excess (the amount you pay first when you make a claim), how much you still owe if your car is being financed, and depreciation (the decreasing value of your car based on wear and tear),” says Smit. 

The type of insurance you have could also impact your pay-out.

Some of South Africa’s top insurance companies provide consumers with a selection of insurance quotes. 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.

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 here.

But what if you don'y have any car insurance?

Smit says: "If you’re involved in a car accident and you’re uninsured you could face financial and legal claims from the other people involved in the accident. If no other people were involved you will be liable for your own costs, and of course you will be without a vehicle.

"If the accident wasn’t your fault, the other person will be responsible for your damages. Hopefully they would be insured, and their policy will cover the costs," says Smit.

"If you were at fault, it’s important to make a statement with the police as soon as possible because the other person could sue you for damages.

He adds: "You’re taking a major financial risk if you’re driving your vehicle uninsured. If you’re unable to afford full comprehensive insurance, contact us for a quote on Third Party Insurance. This insurance option is usually more affordable and at least covers you for damages to another vehicle or person."

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