Taking the hassle out of insurance claims!

Taking the hassle out of insurance claims !
JP Letter

Help With Car Insurance Claims

Ever since his early participation on 3AW Talkback Radio programs as the ‘Insurance Watchdog’, and as a journalist for the ‘Out & About Newspaper’; John Pennant, the Director of JP Auto Group Pty Ltd, has had a broad and continuing interest in not letting insurance companies trample over the rights of consumers in car accident related claims. Taking a stand on this, he has continually spoken out on insurance issues, fighting the good fight ever since.

He brings this wealth of inside knowledge to his business where, as a free value adding service, he provides information on how to avoid insurance traps & effectively pursue insurance claims, with the aim of clients receiving all that their policy entitles them.

As part of its accident repair service, at no further charge, JP also offers to handle client paperwork associated with car insurance claims & settlements, including any necessary liaison with insurance companies or independent assessors. If necessary it can also act as a mediator in disputes, or recommend legal firms that specialise in vehicle accidents.

JP is aware of the vast majority of tactics that can be used by insurers to delay claims or minimise claim payouts, and keeps a continual eye out for its clients !

Check out the archive for examples of the advocacy JP Auto Group has provided.

Insurance Claim Tips from JP

Recording Events

Keep a diary of all accident and insurance related events. In particular note down who you talked to and the significant points in what they said. Also note down for reference how long you may be holding on the phone in each contact. Per this last point, if later, the matter is disputed, you may gain some advantage or sympathy if it obvious you are being stuffed around.

Don’t delay in reporting an accident, as generally you will have an obligation to keep costs down within reason, and if a delay on your part leads to further costs you may not be covered for any worsening of the situation.

When dealing with insurers try to put things in writing rather than just talking over the phone. If a commitment is made on the telephone and you think you may later need to rely on that commitment, then follow up with an email repeating what was said verbally and confirming your understanding of any commitments that were made by the insurer. In such emails ask the insurer to clarify the situation in writing if they disagree with your assessment of the phone call. Do not rely on any recordings the insurer may have made, as in our experience they are unlikely to willingly provide you with a copy.

Consider making your own recording of conversations with insurers by placing the phone on loudspeaker and then recording the call with a separate non connected voice recorder. Such recordings can sometimes be used as evidence in court though you may not legally be able to use them for other things or let others listen to them. However be aware that it is generally illegal to electronically tap into the phone directly for recording without the other person’s consent.

Take your own digital photos of the damaged vehicle before you give it to a repairer so you have your own independent record of the initial state of the vehicle. Ideally take photos from a distance of 7 feet as well as close up of the damage and get both front and side on photos.

Quoting

Be aware that some repairers will deliberately underquote then raise their prices after they start, so watch out for this when choosing a repairer. However, it is generally considered legitimate to make an additional charge where within reason something is not evident up front ie. where something can only be seen after the car is taken apart or is not otherwise reasonable to identify from an initial inspection. In vehicle accident repairs, usually only an estimate is given initially as a final price is often not able to be determined until a repairer has an opportunity to at least itemise the steps of the repair and ring around to get prices for parts. This takes time, and costs the repairer, hence most repairers provide only a basic estimate up front.

Choice of Repairer

Keep in mind that normally you can choose any repairer to fix your car. You generally don’t have to use a particular repairer that is recommended or endorsed by an insurance company, notwithstanding such insurance companies may lead you to believe otherwise, and will often strongly push you to one of that insurer’s preferred repairers.

Be aware, when choosing, that insurers will generally refer you to a repairer who will be cheapest for them rather than one that provides a better service but charges more. In this respect, keep in mind that simple business economics means that where a repairer quotes cheap or underquotes they will generally do the minimum necessary to meet the (insurers) requirements and they may cut corners which you may be unaware of and which may only become apparent a year or two down the track. These insurer “recommended” repairers’ generally depend on the insurer’s goodwill for ongoing work and when push comes to shove it is our experience that they will generally support the insurer over car owners, including when making decisions on such things as the need for new parts or old and when deciding what to cover as accident damage in situations where the extent of accident related damage is difficult to prove.

The cheaper repairers are also more likely to have less ability to pay for good staff and equipment, and have less of a margin to absorb any mistakes they might make. For this reason our advice is to always choose a repairer which holds itself out as being independent of the insurance companies.

In choosing, always consider researching the internet to see what others are saying about the proposed repairer before making a decision.

Consider whether:

  • your vehicle will be repaired quickly
  • only qualified tradespeople will work on the vehicle minimising the risk of later problems due to poor workmanship
  • your vehicle will be repaired with new parts or at least with reputable second hand parts
  • your vehicle will be kept secure while being repaired, preferably undercover, and not left out on the street at night where it may be at risk of additional damage or theft 
  • your vehicle will be accessible if you need to get something out of it while it is being repaired
  • your vehicle will be immediately given back to you as soon as the repairs are complete or whether it will stay in the repairers possession until final payment for the repair is made (which could take weeks or months)

Also see whether the repairer will offer anything extra to minimise your inconvenience out of good customer service, such as:

  • complimentary pick up or drop off of your vehicle
  • complimentary cleaning or detailing
  • providing a temporary car while your car is being fixed
  • discounts for any towing or other service done at the same time as the main insurance covered repair
  • flexibility in trading hours eg. work outside normal office hours so as to make it easy to come in to discuss any problems or needs face to face with the vehicle in front of you for reference
Whether to make a Claim on Your Own Insurance

Check your financial position carefully when dealing with insurers. Don’t jump into a car insurance claim without thinking the situation through carefully. Don’t let yourself get pushed into something you are not sure of.

If you do proceed to lodge a car insurance claim on your own insurance policy or are talking to another party’s insurer about an accident involving your vehicle be very very careful with what words you describe the accident events as you will generally be held to this and any later inconsistencies may lead to the claim being denied or significantly delayed. It does happen ! A good idea might be to write down the events as dot points before talking to the insurer to avoid any confusion or inconsistencies.

Where an accident is another person’s fault, unless they are not insured, you will almost always be financially better off seeking the cost of repairs direct from that other person or their insurer, even though it may be easier or faster to just make a claim on your own comprehensive insurance policy (if you have one). In this regard there are often significant hidden or indirect costs when you claim on your own policy.

For instance, if your car is a write off and you make the claim on your policy you may lose the balance of your car registration to the insurer. If you pay your insurance by monthly instalments in some cases the insurer may also be able to force you to pay out the balance of the full annual insurance policy amount (even though this may not yet be due) before they will pay out the claim. In such a case you might be out hundreds of dollars for as yet unpaid premium payments, and, in addition, the insurer might then also keep the balance of your car registration which might total hundreds more when cancelled. In comparison, if you had the other person’s insurer cover the accident damage under their insurance, normally you yourself could cancel the remainder your insurance policy and vehicle registration, with all refunds then coming to you. 

Under your own policy you are also commonly far more limited in what you can claim eg. under your own policy there may be no entitlement to receive a replacement hire car while your car is being fixed, or there may be other restrictions, perhaps capping payouts to totally unrealistic amounts.

You might also lose no claim bonuses or have your insurance premiums increase. In this, don’t assume that just because your insurer states that you have a rating one for life, or something similar, that your premium won’t still go up, as they generally do when a car insurance claim is made, irrespective of the actual rating level.

Insurers Often Have Multiple Trading Names

Its worth noting that many insurers’ trade under multiple names, so both you and a person who crashes into you, may ultimately be insured by the same insurer even though the names and details of the policies may vary. Where this happens there can be even more of a conflict of interest on the part of the insurer than is normally the case. While such situations can lead to faster and smoother processing of claims, it can significantly increase the risk that claims may be manipulated to place the insurer’s interests above yours, so as to minimise their required payout.

Such things are most likely to happen in disputes where the ‘other person’ is at fault ie. in what are known as 3rd party claims. Where your insurer is in a dispute with another person or insurer, they normally fight to get those others to shoulder the costs resulting from an accident so they don’t have to. In this they have a common interest with their customer (you), and accordingly they take steps to protect your entitlements. However where they are the one who has insured all sides of a dispute there is far less of an incentive to protect one particular customer’s interests over another’s and more of an incentive to minimise the overall claim cost to them, or to otherwise discourage aspects of potential claims that might result in increased costs to them. 

In JP’s experience, knowledge that they are actually the insurer for both parties is commonly not disclosed in such situations, and customers are more often encouraged to settle for less than they may otherwise be entitled to. In particular, where costs are difficult to substantiate or are subject to interpretation it is JP’s experience that insurers will generally read these in their own favour, and not advise customers of information that might cause them to otherwise seek an increased payout.

The bottom line is that just because a company is “your” insurer you should not assume that they will act in your best interest.

Similarly, if you are dissatisfied with an insurer’s customer service and decide to make a change, check to make sure the apparent new insurer you sign up with is actually a different company !

Two examples where companies operate under multiple names are AAI Ltd and IAG Ltd.

As at 7 July 2014, according to their websites, while policy criteria may vary substantially, car insurance policies marketed under the following companies, trading names and/or brands, are all ultimately either owned or issued by AAI Ltd:

  • Suncorp
  • AAMI
  • GIO
  • APIA
  • Vero Insurance
  • Bingle
  • Shannons

Similarly, as at 7 July 2014, according to their websites, car insurance policies marketed under the following trading names and/or brands, are all ultimately either owned or issued by IAG Ltd:

  • CGU
  • RACV Insurance (70% owned by IAG Ltd & 30% owned by RACV via their ownership in Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Ltd)
  • NRMA Insurance (co-owned by IAG Ltd and NRMA)
  • Coles (From 2014)
  • Wesfarmers (From 2014)
  • Lumley (from 2014)
  • SwannTick
  • SGICT
  • SGIO

JP’s 2016 Car Insurer Recommendations include:

Allianz 

QBE

Zurich

Lumley *

CGU *

* In JP’s view, Lumley & CGU while both owned by IAG Ltd, generally have more flexible car insurance policies & seem to operate more professionally, than operations conducted under some of the other insurance brands associated with IAG Ltd

## JP receives no remuneration, benefit, or kickback of any kind for any of its car insurer recommendations. Nor does JP refer clients to particular car insurers or provide financial advice. Recommendations are based solely on JPs review of the insurer’s policies & performance in car accident related insurance claims of which JP has knowledge. The recommendations do not imply any guarantee of quality in a particular instance and JPs recommendations will vary from year to year