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Assessment of third party damages (2010)

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Assessment of third party damages

The Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance says that motorists who are the victims of the negligence of persons insured with short-term insurers are frequently directed by the other party to deal with their insurers in relation to a recovery of the damages to their motor vehicles. Commonly a third party, who may be uninsured, or may elect not to file a claim against their own insurer, is requested to furnish a quotation reflecting the cost of repairs to the vehicle, which is thereafter referred to an assessor or loss adjuster to be "assessed or adjusted".

It has come to the attention of the Ombudsman's Office that a firm of brokers acting as an underwriting manager for an insurer, has issued a directive to assessors instructed by the insurer to examine and assess damages to third party vehicle and which directs the assessors to apply a different basis to the assessment of damages to motor vehicles comprehensively insured by the insurer and cases where the third party is seeking to recover damages. In relation to the assessment of damages claimed by the insurer's own clients, the assessors have been directed to ensure that "the repair quotation is all inclusive of all the damages, so where things are left off they must be included". However, in relation to the assessment of third party damages it is stated that it is not the insurer's "responsibility to make sure the quote is all inclusive, so if the repairer has not prepared a full quote it is NOT for us to tell him he has missed things off (sic out) and add additional costs."

This approach is not sanctioned by the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance who is of the view that the same process must be followed in the assessment of damages to motor vehicles by assessors, irrespective of whether the damage in question is to a vehicle comprehensively insured by the insurer or represents damages claimed by a third party from its insured.

Members of the public are accordingly cautioned, whenever obtaining a quotation for the repair of damages to a motor vehicle, to ensure that the quotation covers all damage to the vehicle and represents a fair and reasonable cost of repairing or reinstating the motor vehicle to its preaccident condition. If there is any doubt as to whether there are hidden damages to a motor vehicle, then components must be removed or stripped in order to determine whether such damage exists and if so, the cost of repairing this damage should be included in the quotation. Wherever possible, more than one quotation should be obtained and if there is any doubt as to whether a panel beater has included all costs associated with accident damage, then the opinion of an independent professional loss adjuster or assessor should be obtained.

Members of the public are also cautioned against signing discharge or release forms unless they are satisfied that repair to a vehicle have been correctly and competently carried out and that all items quoted for have been attended to. If you are not satisfied with the repair work carried out do not sign a release or indemnity or ensure that the document is endorsed that it has been signed subject to recourse and under protest.

Members of the public who are dissatisfied with decisions or standards of service delivered by their insurers, or with the conduct of service providers appointed by the insurer, may approach the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance for assistance or may file a complaint in terms of the Code of Conduct applicable to members of the South African Insurance Association (SAIA).

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