Vehicle collisions and the law

Current statistics indicate that approximately only one-third of South African drivers carry comprehensive insurance

This means that if you are in a collision with an individual, you or your insurance company will be looking to the other driver for compensation for damage to your vehicle. If that is the case, there are a number of things you can do to ensure your case is as strong as possible.

A few tips if you’re involved in a vehicle collision:

1. Always obtain AS MUCH information about the other driver as possible

If the other driver is employed and was driving in the course of his employment, obtain as much information about his/her employer as possible. This also applies to taxi drivers working for taxi operators – insist in obtaining their insurance information on the scene.

2. Obtain the details of any and all witnesses to the collision

Don’t only obtain a cellphone number – ask for their ID number and work details if possible. You are a lot more likely to be compensated, either through your insurers or in a law suit against the other driver, when you have this information available.

3. Take photographs

Most cellular phones have cameras so take pictures before the vehicles are moved (do this quickly so as not to obstruct traffic). Photograph any skid marks or any other relevant markings or signage relevant to the collision.

4. Report the collision at the nearest police station to the collision

If necessary insist that the other driver is present at the police station at the same time as you.

5. Keep your insurance broker or insurance company’s details on you

In the event of a collision, obtain instructions from your insurer about which towage company and/or panel beater may attend to your vehicle. Certain towage companies and panel beaters are affiliated to certain insurance companies.

6. Do not admit fault for the collision

Fault is a legal concept and it is for your insurers to deal with the issue of who is responsible for the collision.

7. If you are in a collision with a taxi and the driver advises you that the taxi is not insured, do not take this at face value 

There are several insurers who do insure taxis and it is a good idea to phone a few of the insurance companies who specialise in insuring taxis to ascertain if the vehicle with which you collided is insured. Your broker will be able to assist with the names of these insurance underwriters and make enquiries on your behalf.

8. Assist your insurer and the attorneys appointed by your insurer should they proceed against the third party

The third party is the person with whom you had the accident or their insurer. Your insurer will only be able to refund you the excess you paid once a recovery action against the third party has been successful.

The attorneys for your insurer will need you to assist with things such as giving a statement, providing any photographs you may have, deposing to affidavits, and ultimately testifying at trial should the matter proceed. This may be an inconvenience to you but you will be required under your insurance policy to assist.

Should you have any questions or concerns we suggest you speak to an attorney who deals with motor vehicle claims to assist you.

About the author

Andrea Goldman is a Partner at Goldman Schultz Attorneys. For more information contact info@gslaw.co.za or www.gslaw.co.za