Impact damage is one of the many insured perils included in a property insurance policy. While the damage is most commonly caused by a third party to the insured property, it is not uncommon for the insured property to be the cause of its own damage and damage to third-party property.
The most frequent type of incident experienced in this regard is damage suffered to property access points and to vehicles utilising these points of access. There is often confusion as to how to proceed when such an event occurs.
Determining the cause of damage
When a gate caused damage to a vehicle there are commonly two possible reasons for this.
Firstly, the gate malfunctioned and closed on the vehicle, scratching the car. In this case, the property owners are likely to be held liable for damage caused. Secondly, the driver of the vehicle has proceeded without caution or ignored the circumstances, driving through the gate regardless. In this case, the driver and vehicle are the cause of the damage.
How to react
When an incident occurs, it is important that the property owners react suitably to ensure that they do not compromise their insurance cover in any way. The first and most important rule – never admit liability, no matter what the circumstances. To do so in the face of a potential liability claim is contrary to the terms of your policy. By virtue of the complex legal nature of most liability claims, the insurer reserves the right to handle all correspondence and negotiations in such matters and as such, the insured may not do so. Failure to comply with this may result in the rejection of your liability claim.
At the time of the incident – or as soon as reasonably possible thereafter – all parties concerned must exchange full details in order to submit their property damage claims correctly. The property owner must record all details of the vehicle, driver and vehicle owner to facilitate a potential recovery by their insurer. Similarly, the driver must record the property owner’s details for the same reason.
The property owner must immediately notify the necessary persons of the incident and the potential claim. A suitably qualified contractor should be appointed to assess the damage to the property and determine how the damage occurred. If gate malfunction was the cause, the insurer will require a detailed report to this effect. If it cannot be determined that the gate was the cause, consideration must be given to whether the driver was at fault.
Where damage to the gate is extensive and property security has been compromised, the property owner’s insurance may provide some indemnity for additional security. It is vital to check your insurance cover before taking reasonable steps to safeguard the insured property.
When vehicle owner has no insurance
It is quite common for the vehicle owner to be quite certain they were not to blame and take offense when they need to lodge a claim from their car insurance policy and jeopardise their no-claims bonus. If the vehicle has no insurance, then this may be confirmed by way of a sworn affidavit.
Once the insurance claims have been submitted the various insurers will communicate with each other regarding a potential recovery of damage costs. In the event that the vehicle owner has no insurance or is unable to make a claim against their insurance, they must submit a letter of demand together with all relevant supporting documentation directly to the property owners. The property owner should pass this on to their insurers immediately as part of the potential liability claim; their insurers will then correspond with the vehicle owner accordingly.
Separate legal entity
In the event that the vehicle owner is also a member of the community scheme, it is important to understand that the vehicle owner is recognised as a separate legal entity in his role as a community scheme owner. Where this becomes complicated is that as vehicle owner he will pay the vehicle claim excess and as community scheme member he may be expected to pay the property claim excess as well.
Author: Bruce Gibson
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