What to do at the accident site
You should take down the following particulars:-
1. Registration numbers and name of insurance companies of all vehicles involved in the accident (Names, NRIC numbers, addresses and telephone numbers of the drivers, passengers, injured pedestrians and witnesses). You should also provide your particulars to the other parties involved in the accident.
2. If it is a serious accident e.g. where someone is injured or has died, call the police. As the police need to draw a sketch plan, do not move the vehicles or dead bodies.
3. If possible, make a sketch plan or mental note of the accident site, position of vehicles and any landmarks and take photographs of all damage caused by the accident. You must keep the negatives of these photographs.
What to do immediately after
1. Police Report: You should lodge a written police report as soon as possible at any police station or neighborhoods police post. If you are hospitalized as a result of the accident, make your report as soon as you are discharged from hospital. You have to give all the information mentioned in the above paragraph (What to do at the accident site).
a. The report must be made in English. If you have difficulty, ask someone to help you write a report beforehand, or you can explain the accident to the police officer who will translate it into English and write it for you.
b. The police report is important because it is the official written record of the accident. Your insurance company, the police and lawyers will refer to it if you make any claim for compensation.
2. Report to insurance company: You should report the accident to your insurance company (insurers) within the time limit stated in your policy, usually 7 days. Otherwise, your insurers may not accept responsibility for any claims made by you or any third party against you.
3. Damage to your vehicle: You should arrange for your damaged vehicle to be removed to your workshop or a workshop approved by your insurer for a survey and repair. If, however, you wish to claim against the insurer of the other guilty party, you may wish to afford the insurer an opportunity to inspect your vehicle within a reasonable time (e.g. 48 hours).
4. Injury to person: If you have been injured, see a doctor immediately and get a medical report.
You should keep a proper record of the following:
· Copies of police reports.
· Medical and specialist reports.
· A list of expenses incurred, e.g. transport, medical fees and rental of car.
· Documents supporting your claim such as photographs (and negatives), medical certificates, repair bills and receipts.
How do I make a claim?
Claim against your own insurance company: In this case, you should note that there is an excess clause in your insurance policy. Your claim must exceed the excess amount, and your insurance company will only pay the difference between your claim and the excess amount. For example, if the excess amount is $700 and your claim is $500 the insurers will not pay. However, if your claim is $1,000, your insurers will only pay $300. You will also lose your no claim bonus.
· Claim against another person: It is advisable to see a lawyer (see information on Seeing a Lawyer). Please remember that lawyers can represent you only if you authorize them to do so, usually by signing a warrant to act. Please be informed that workshops are not authorized to make claims on your behalf.
o Claiming in hit and run cases. If you suffer personal injuries as a result of an accident and do not know the particulars of the other party that caused the accident, you may make a claim to the Motor Insurance Bureau.
o Seeing your lawyer. When you see your lawyer, bring along the documents stated in the above paragraph Keeping Records. If you receive a police summons charging you for an offence related to the accident, seek advice from a lawyer immediately before taking any course of action.
o What will your lawyer do?
§ Your lawyer will:-go through the documents and consider the evidence;
· take a statement from you and advise you on the merits of your case;
· write letters on your behalf to claim compensation;
· discuss with you offers made and negotiate a settlement;
· if no settlement is made, commence proceedings in Court, prepare court documents, interview your witnesses and prepare for trial.
NOTE: Under the law, you must issue a summons for a claim relating to personal injuries within 3 years from the date of the accident. For damage to vehicles, the time limit is 6 years.
What can a person claim?
A person can claim:
1. General damages: This compensates you for pain and suffering as a result of injuries caused to a person ("personal injuries"). Discuss with your lawyer how much you can claim as general damages for your personal injuries.
2. Special Damages: This compensates you for expenses incurred, e.g. costs of medical fees, transport, repairs to vehicle, hiring another vehicle while your vehicle was being repaired, loss of salary and CPF savings contributions before trial. You must ensure that you keep the original receipts for these expenses.
At the trial
If proceedings are commenced in Court, there are 2 questions to be decided:
§ who is responsible; and
§ Quantum: how much the damage caused is worth.
For liability, the Court can decide that one party is fully responsible for the accident, in which case, he is said to be "100% liable".
It can also decide that the person making the claim (plaintiff) is partly responsible for the accident (contributory negligent).
In this case, the Court will assess the degree of responsibility in percentage terms and divide the damage accordingly between the parties e.g. if the plaintiff is found to be 20% contributory negligent for a $10,000 claim, then he will only be awarded the sum of $8,000 as damages.
The costs you have to pay your lawyer are called "Solicitor and Client's" costs.
The costs that the losing party pays to the winning party is called "Party and Party" costs.
If you lose your case, you will have to pay the other side's Party and Party's costs, as well as your own Solicitor and Client's costs.
If you win your case, the Party and Party costs received by you can be used towards paying your own Solicitor and Client's costs.
If you are awarded more than $5,000 for personal injuries, the Court decides on the amount of Solicitor and Client's costs and the Party and Party costs.
How do I collect my money?
If you are awarded general damages in excess of $5,000 the money will be paid to the Public Trustee (a government officer) who will then pay you the money. It usually takes 3 to 6 month from the completion of your case for payment to be made.
If there is no claim for personal injuries, the money will be paid directly by the insurance company to you or through your lawyer.