Do you know what to do if you are involved in a road accident? You may have injured yourself or another person or you may have damaged your vehicle or another person's vehicle in the process. What should you do? The following guide will come in handy, especially if you're new on the road.
At the accident site
1. Be calm and do not panic. Neither should you take the law into your hands.
2. Take down the particulars of the vehicles involved in the accident — registration numbers, make of the vehicle (year and model), and colour.
3. Next, take down the particulars of the driver/passengers/witnesses — name, address, identity card number, driving licence number, and telephone number (work and home).
4. If you have a camera with you, take some photographs of the accident site as well as the vehicles involved. Remember to keep the negatives in a safe place as photographs without their negatives may not be admissible as evidence in court.
At the police station
You should make a police report within 24 hours of the accident at the nearest police station. If you are injured, seek medical aid first and then you can make a police report at the police beat base in the hospital. In your report you must explain how the accident happened.
You can write out the report in Bahasa Malaysia and then sign at the bottom of the report. If you cannot write in Bahasa Malaysia you can explain to the police officer on duty who will write it down for you. Always ask for a certified copy of the police report.
Dealing with the damage
1. Read your insurance policy carefully. You should report the accident to your insurance company within the period stated in your policy. Otherwise your insurance company will not entertain your claim.
2. Arrange for your vehicle to be towed to an authorised workshop. Here the damage to your vehicle will be assessed by assessors from the insurance company.
3. If you are injured, get medical attention immediately. Get a medical report and if possible copies of medical reports.
You should keep a proper record of the following:
- all particulars taken down
- certified copies of police report
- medical reports
- receipts for expenses incurred, e.g. medical fees, transport charges, rental of vehicle, etc.
- documents supporting your claim — photographs and negatives, repair bills, receipts, medical reports.
Claiming for damage to your vehicle
There are two ways of claiming for damages to your vehicle.
(1) Claim from your own insurance company
Examine your insurance policy and note the excess clause in your policy. In order to claim from your own insurance company, your claim must exceed the excess clause. Then, the insurance company will pay the difference between your claim and the excess amount.
For example, if the excess clause is RM1,000 and your claim is RM800, you will not be able to claim from your own insurance company. But if your claim is for RM1,800, then you will be paid RM800.
Always remember that when you claim from your insurance company, you will lose your no-claim bonus.
(2) Claim from the other party's insurance company
You can also claim from the other party's insurance company. If you decide to do so, it is preferable to engage a lawyer.
Engaging a lawyer
If you want to file a claim, you should engage a lawyer. Remember, you have a right to choose your own lawyer. So, do not be influenced by people who pester you to accept the services of lawyers whom they represent.
Your lawyer will ask you to sign a warrant to act. This is a document appointing him/her as your lawyer and authorising the lawyer to act on your behalf.
What will your lawyer do?
Your lawyer will:
- take down a full statement from you and examine all the documents that you have, consider the evidence, and explain to you the types and the quantum of claims that you may be granted.
- write letters to the police station for copies of the police reports as well as the sketch map of the accident site.
- if you have not obtained the medical reports, the lawyer will write to the hospital for medical reports.
- write to the insurance company concerned for compensation.
- if no adequate compensation can be obtained, the lawyer will file a civil suit, prepare the documents and get ready for trial. Even at this stage, parties are free to arrive at a settlement.
What can you claim?
An injured person can claim for special damages, and general damages.
- Special damages — These are claims for specific expenses (e.g. transport, repairs to vehicles, hiring another vehicle, medical expenses). Generally, special damages deal with specific monetary expenses, incurred by the claimant as a result of the accident.
- General damages — These are compensations for pain and suffering as a result of injuries caused to a person.
If the matter goes to trial, then the Court will have to decide the issues of :
- Liability — Who is responsible for causing the accident?
- Quantum — How much should the injured party receive?
If the defendant is fully responsible for the accident, he will be said to be 100% liable.
There may also be instances when the claimant is also partly responsible for the accident. In such a case, the plaintiff is said to be contributorily negligent.
In this case the Court will assess the degree of the claimant's responsibility in percentage terms in causing the accident and reduce the quantum accordingly.
Thus, if the Court finds that the claimant is 50% liable, then the Court will reduce the quantum by 50%.
Collecting the money
The cheque will issued by the insurance company in your name and will be forwarded to your lawyer. Your lawyer will then inform you to come to his office to collect the cheque.
One final warning!
Remember you have a right to choose your own lawyer. Do not be forced into choosing a lawyer by touts.
(Extracted from "Road Accidents" pamphlet published by The Bar Council)