Let’s Talk Insurance: Delay Now: Pay Up Later

by Mark J. Ram

They say time is money. And when it comes to reporting accident claims, nothing could be truer.

A recent study of 41,000 North American claims, conducted by Hartford Financial Services Group, confirms some unsettling facts: Delays in reporting claims are adding millions to the cost of final settlements and insurance costs.

The study details how lag time increases the costs of litigation, administration and the total cost of the final settlement.

A claim reported one month after an accident is, on average, 48 per cent more expensive to resolve than a similar accident reported within one week.

In the case of trucking accidents – in which the costs are usually much higher than the average – even a 24-hour delay can increase the final costs of a claim by tens of thousands of dollars.

However, by calling your insurance company immediately – even before you call your broker (your broker is an important part of the insurance process and should be your second call) – you can help us to help you in many ways.

Gather important evidence to defend you

Capturing the details of an accident while those details are still fresh can mean everything in determining a final settlement with a third party.

Your insurer must get to the scene quickly, before evidence is disturbed, so that we can confirm the facts of the accident.

By getting to the scene immediately, we can record and ensure the accuracy of:

witnesses and other individuals involved

physical damage and skid marks

weather, traffic and road conditions

This crucial evidence and at-the-scene note taking enable us to mount a stronger defense on your behalf – a defense that can save thousands, even millions, of dollars.

Intercept the use of expensive lawyers

We’ve all heard about the proverbial ambulance chasers.

Well, would it surprise you to know that there is an association of lawyers across the U.S. who specialize in suing trucking companies involved in accidents?

Oh, and by the way, their favourite target happens to be foreign (read Canadian) truckers. Keep in mind that in the US, many lawyers are motivated by the 40 per cent fee they earn on every lawsuit they win.

By involving your insurance company immediately, you can minimize the chance that expensive lawyers will drive the cost up to ridiculous levels.

After establishing an initial rapport with the third party involved in the accident, a good insurance company will maintain regular contact so that, when a settlement opportunity arises, it can be resolved directly and fairly, without any excessive legal intervention.

Help third parties

Your insurance company must be on the scene of an accident promptly to interview any witnesses before they leave the location or forget crucial details.

This is especially important in the case of an accident in which someone sustains injuries – apparent or not – which can arise or worsen over time.

The sooner your insurance company talks to third parties, the sooner we can build a rapport with them and help them get the help they need, mitigating the chance of future complications.

We can dispatch an Accident Reconstructionist to provide a full investigation.

In addition to sending representatives to the scene, a good insurance company may also dispatch the Accident Reconstructionist, a qualified technical expert, who can use specialized tools to properly discover subtle evidence that is often otherwise missed.

This evidence can then be used in court to defend you, when the plaintiff’s lawyers are pointing fingers at you with often wild accusations. Accident Reconstructionists can protect against spoilage of evidence and can secure critical loss details often found through the analysis of skid marks, information from the ECM black box (that can reveal such things as vehicle speed and application of brakes), and other less than obvious physical factors.

At the end of the day, prompt claims reporting is one of the most powerful strategies you have in your control to manage the cost of your insurance premiums.

The faster your insurance company gets involved in a claim involving a third party, the lower on average the final cost to your loss ratio will be.

Keeping third-party claims costs at fair levels goes a long way to helping keep your insurance rates stable.

– Markel is Canada’s largest trucking insurer, providing more than 50 years of continuous service to the transportation industry. Please send your questions, feedback and commentary about this column to letstalk@markel.ca

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