Almost 7 in 10 vehicles on South African roads are uninsured. As a road user, you are not only at risk of an accident with an uninsured vehicle but you may be at financial risk if you do not have car insurance. It is not only about the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle in the event of an accident. You can be held personally liable for the costs of repairing and even replacing other vehicles if you are at fault.
It goes further. You can be held personally liable for the injuries and suffering of the passengers and drivers in the other vehicles, and even of pedestrians who were involved in the collision. A civil case can be instituted against you. Damage to any property, be it a light pole or a fence, will also be your responsibility. These costs can run into the tens, thousands and even hundreds of thousands of rands, if not more. It can impact on you financially for years to come.
Third party insurance is cheap. It will not cover your vehicle but will protect you against the costs incurred for repairing other vehicles and includes personal liability cover. Third party plus fire and theft will also cover your vehicle in the event of loss due to a fire or theft.
Depending on the scenario, you may not be held fully liable. The actions of other drivers may also be a factor. Therefore you may be found to be only partially liable and be required to pay accordingly. However, there are a few instances which can render you exclusively negligent and in this case fully liable for costs. The financial implications are largely avoidable – if you have car insurance. It is not just th accident damage that is covered. The personality liability cover within your car insurance compensate others for your actions.
Keep Insurance Simple and Cheap
Comprehensive car insurance is not an option for every vehicle owner. It is expensive and unless you have a financed vehicle, it is not mandatory in South Africa. This does not mean that you will not be held liable for accident damage if it is your fault. Some insurance is better than no insurance and this is where third party cover can be beneficial. For a few hundred rands per month, third party insurance will cover you for the costs of accident damage to other vehicles and property.
It will also protect you against personal liability for injuries and suffering to other parties. Third party car insurance will not cover your vehicle repairs or replacement. However, most car insurers now offer an intermediate cover which is known as third party plus fire and theft insurance. This very basic car insurance is third party cover but will also pay for your vehicle in the event of a theft or fire damage. It is slightly more expensive than standalone third party car insurance.
Nether third party cover on its own or third party with fire and theft is suitable for a financed vehicle. Your lender requires you to have comprehensive car insurance for your vehicle that is still under finance. Failure to comply is in breach of your lending agreement and can have consequences. Rather shop around for cheaper car insurance than forgoing it altogether.
What NOT to do
The following actions can swing the odds against you. In these instances there is a strong possibility that you will be held personally liable for the damage incurred as a result of the car accident.
- Fleeing the scene of the accident. Never flee the scene of an accident. You are required to stay and await the police or other authority to report to the scene. However, there are instances where you may feel unsafe. Do not speed off. Instead switch on your hazard lights and at least call out to the other driver that you are driving to a safer location. Drive to the nearest police station immediately and report the incident. Explain to the police officer that you felt unsafe at the scene of the accident.
- Consuming an intoxicating substance. Be it alcohol or calming medication, these substances need to be avoided immediately after an accident. It is difficult to ascertain if you were intoxicated prior to the accident if you opt to take these substances thereafter. You can therefore be held liable for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Not only will your car insurance not pay for drunk driving, you may be criminally charged.
- Leave the accident unreported. You are required by law to report a road traffic accident. Your failure to do so can be incriminating. Even if the other driver assures you that they will not report the accident, you should at least do so even if you do not intend to make an insurance claim. Try to collect as much information as possible, including the registration number of the other vehicle, driver’s details and photographs or video at the scene.