Monday, October 11, 2010

Consumer rights: Post-accident stress

Consumer rights: Post-accident stress

Surviving it totally should include getting desired insurance claims
Friday, August 20th, 2010 09:45:00
I WAS involved in a terrible car accident last December and fortunately came out of it unscathed.

Considering the state my car was in, I had a lot to be thankful for and reminded myself there should be no whining or complaining while going through the formalities of making a police report and insurance claim.

Unfortunately, it did not prepare me for what was to come – the eventual dealings with the car workshop and insurance company.

First, I was told by the insurance firm that my car had to be sent to its panel workshop. Second, considering the state of the car, the workshop told me since repair costs would be very high, it would be best if the insurance company declared it “beyond repair”.

The estimated resale value of my car was around RM84,000 at that point of time and the assessed repair cost was about RM72,000, subject to valuation of the adjuster to be appointed by the insurance company.

The adjuster, who took two months to come up with the cost valuation for the vehicle, and after much prodding, eventually said the insurance company felt the car should be repaired and the bill slashed to RM54,000 — a reduction of RM18,000 or 25 per cent from the initial workshop quote.

After this, came the confirmation of costs and more delays with the processing of paperwork, ordering and delivery of replacement parts. More than six months had passed and for reasons unknown, repairs had not even started on my car.

After much hassle, arguments and legal threats, the insurance firm finally agreed to consider the car “beyond repair” and I finally got my long overdue payout, at the end of July this year.

The abovementioned is a simplified version of a more complicated scenario as I wanted to share some key points with other car owners faced with similar situations.

After coming out of it barely unscathed, I have a few questions in need of answers:

1.What rights do car owners have to choose the workshop in such cases? I was not given the choice as the workshop I was familiar with was not on the insurance company’s panel.
2.Should the owner be consulted before the workshop, adjuster or insurance company decide if a wrecked car should be repaired or not?
3.Considering the limited choice, how can an owner be assured of quality repair works and that parts used are original?
4.Should owners be given some guarantee that the repairs will put the car back in good state as if the accident did not occur? This should include guaranteeing that parts replaced are original.
5.Considering the cost of repairs is often significantly reduced by the insurance firm, how can a car owner ensure that original parts have been used and workshop services are of high quality?
6.Why do car owners end up losing in the end? Who are the culprits? Are workshops charging excessively or are insurance companies slashing prices to avoid bigger payouts, to the detriment of car owners?
7.Is there any government body that monitors the quality of repairs to ensure the car is safe and roadworthy?
I hope someone can shed light on these posers.
Subang Jaya, Selangor

Mate, you have had an ugly time that makes all of us frown. The very same thing would happen to us should we get involved in accidents. The way you put it, and the way I have always seen it, these insurance companies and the workshops are all in for the money, without real care for the state of our wrecked vehicles or our financial standings. They squeeze us dry like lemon whenever possible. We can't expect much social commitment from the actors in this industry. I am of the opinion that the government has sat back long enough and watched us suffer. It's high time they do something; a policy and procedure for all to follow, including verification of assessments made by adjustors, who actually and normally become the middleman, negotiator and culprit for both insurance companies and repair workshop ... they 'eat both sides', at the loss of car owners. Secondly, let us change our driving behaviour, especially in light of the raya exodus. It's very, very important for all of us to start obeying traffic rules and regulation, no matter how absurd they sound. We may not only save lives, but avoid these kind of problems. Make it difficult for parties involved in this industry to squeeze us dry. Start with ourselves. Thirdly, again, government intervention needed: reduce (not stop) the road blocks and increase traffic police patrols and give chase to traffic offenders if that is what it takes to increase concern for road accidents and obedience to rules and regulations. Lastly, my sympathy to you, and my prayer goes to all of us so that we just don't hurt ourselves and spend unnecessary money on repairs to our vehicles.

I agree that choosing a good insurance company is super important. My 1 month old Honda suffered a major accident during Hari Raya and things were handled professionally by the appointed insurer - Tokio Marine. They called the right tow truck (one that puts all 4 tyres of my car off the road), called me a few times on the day of the accident to let me know when the tow truck is coming and they even tell what forms or reports I should do next. Here's the thing. I only gave them the first call. After that, they were the one who call me. They sent it back to a Honda service center in KL that did the repair all in-house. I got the car back in 1 month. I'm rest assured that the parts are original and the work was done by people familiar with my car. Yes, a cheap insurer with all sort of goodies are tempting, but they won't be any good when accidents happen. For now I'll stick with Tokio Marine and Honda. p/s From my other accident experience, many panel workshops are useless. Try to go back to the service centers if possible.

Go for a company that has less hassle and good reputation like Tokio Marine or Uni Asia. Don't go for those with stupid rebate offers (which translates to rebate in quality of services). Those are just bait. If you never have accident then those companies are fine but once you have accident then you're screwed. 1. Your rights are written in the insurance policy. If stated only such and such list of panels then you can only choose from that list. 2. Yes, generally they will inform and advice you. But then again it depends on the agent handling your case. If he/she is an idiot then don't expect much. 3. Send to a trusted workshop on the list of approved panels. Unless you're a mechanic of the car maker's service centre yourself you won't be able to inspect or even recognize original parts or not. Get a list of parts changed and charged and send your car after repair to the car maker's service centre to check if you insist. But I think it'll cost you. 4. The mechanic should tell you if you want original parts or imitation parts (for various reasons like stock availability, adjustment to your claim value etc). And the condition of car after repair really depends on how badly you screwed up your car in the first place. Also depends on what repairs were done to your car. Can't expect the engine to be like new when they only changed your windshield can you? 5. Argue with the insurance agent with quotation you get from the mechanic listing original parts and labour costs. As long as it is reasonably priced and within your premium they shouldn't complain. Of course corporate greed don't give a hoot about your problems. 6. Car owners end up losing because they never read and understand the policy of their insurance. These policies are made by very intelligent (albeit greedy) people for the sole purpose of making money out of other people's misery. They make the rules so complicated that stupid people like you and me can be easily duped to give away our money for a lousy coverage. Just look at the law books and lawyers! And so stupid car owners who look for big rebates without reading the consequences of the policies end up screwing themselves over. 7. Yes, PUSPAKOM. But roadworthy just means your car is not going to blow up by itself, not a potong car, not a stolen chassis, will not go left when you turn right, have all lights and blinkers working and have no tinting. All the extras that your car manufacturer offered earlier is none of their concern.

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