The monsoons may bring cheer across the country, but car owners experience the proverbial roads to hell around this time of the year. They have to navigate through waterlogged stretches, potholes, slippery streets and traffic snarls. This year, the usage of owned vehicles – for commuting to work or running errands – has gone up for many due to the COVID-19-related restrictions and risks associated with public transport.
While these risks cannot be wished away, you can prevent mishaps and ensure that your losses are covered through insurance if your car meets with one despite all precautions.
Avoid starting your engine in waterlogged areas
Indian car-owners and drivers are no strangers to driving through flooded roads, particularly in cities such as Mumbai. If you find yourself stranded in your car in a waterlogged area, do not try to crank up your engine. Doing so can lead to water ingress – that is, flood water entering your car and causing severe damage to your engine. Moreover, repairs that such damages necessitate will not be covered under your regular, ‘own-damage’ cover. A motor insurance policy essentially has two components – third-party liability and own damage covers. The former, as the name suggests, compensates third-parties; other people (or their vehicles) if they sustain injuries caused by an accident of your doing. This is a mandatory cover under law for every vehicle on the road. The own-damage component, which is not mandatory, compensates you, the owner, for damages suffered.
On your part, make sure that you do not force-start your engine on a water-logged road. Try moving the vehicle manually, if possible, to a safer area before attempting to crank up your engine again. Better still, make arrangements to have it towed away. Since engine replacement can be an expensive affair, especially in the case of luxury cars, you would do well to take additional precautions during monsoon.
Ensure extra protection for your vehicle
In addition to a regular cover, you can choose to buy add-ons to ensure a more comprehensive protection. For example, in the case of engine malfunction due to water ingress, you can buy an engine protector add-on to reimburse the repair expenses that the ‘own-damage’ cover will not pay for.
Vehicles skidding on the roads are not uncommon occurrences during this season and this is when tyre covers can come to you aid. Typically, ‘own-damage’ car insurance policies pay for tyre replacements only if they are damaged during accidents. A tyre care add-on cover will, on the other hand, pay for the repair and replacement of tyres even in other cases. For instance, damage caused by sudden braking.
Likewise, road assistance add-on, too, carries utility value. If you are stranded on a road due to, say, car breakdown, you can dial your insurance company for help with logistics and co-ordination. It can come to your rescue if you face a medical emergency while on the road, run out of fuel, face a flat tyre, want your car to be towed away and so on.
Keep your insurer and authorities informed after an accident
Intimate your insurer at the earliest about the incident that necessitated the repairs, instead of touching base with the nearest garage. If your car is involved in a major accident causing grievous injuries or death, you will also need to inform the police immediately and file an FIR (first information report). In such cases, you cannot move your car from the area without permission from the insurance company and the police.
Once you reach out to your insurer, you will be directed to the network garage. Not only will it be more reliable, but your claim will also be settled on a cashless basis. The insurer will settle the bills with the workshop directly, after a surveyor has inspected your vehicle. When you submit the claim, attach the completed claim form containing details of the accident, vehicle, policy and your bank account for claim payment. You will also have to furnish the registration certificate and driving licence, besides other documents such as a copy of the FIR and proof to support your claim for reimbursement of medical expenses. Typically, claims are processed in seven to 10 days. However, minor claims could be settled instantly, while those involving major accidents could take longer.
Take the digital route for claim settlement
Several general insurers such as ICICI Lombard, IFFCO-Tokio and Bajaj Allianz General have launched web or app-based digital claim settlement facilities. For minor claims – Rs 20,000-Rs 50,000, depending on the insurer – you can upload your car’s pictures or videos along with the relevant documents. Physical inspection by the insurer-designated surveyor to assess the damage and monetary loss incurred is eliminated in such cases. Your claim, therefore, could be settled almost immediately or on the same day.
Do not make claims for minor damagesFinally, do not file claims if repairs are minor. This will preserve your no-claim bonus (NCB), which translates into direct discount on renewal of own damage cover premiums. NCB starts at 20 per cent after the first claim-free year and can go up to 50 per cent after the fifth consecutive year of not making claims. This is available only on the own damage part, not the third-party liability cover.