Insurance claims: Know the ‘no-claim bonus’ fine print

Cape Town – Insurers commonly offer consumers a ‘no-claims bonus’ if they make no claim against their policy for a specified period of time.Unsurprisingly, the prospect of this financial reward is attractive to consumers, so much so that many choose not to claim from their insurance to avoid losing the cash-back reward or discount on their insurance premiums in years to follow.This is particularly true in the case of third-party claims, where consumers feel someone else is responsible for an accident.Detrimental to your finances

However, holding out on placing a claim with your insurer is often financially detrimental in the long run. So says Chris Barry, managing director of Heavy Commercial Vehicle Underwriting Managers (HCV), who warns that many consumers are at risk because they do not fully understand the implications of not claiming from their insurers.

Barry explains: “An insurance policy is a contract between a consumer and their insurer that provides the consumer with certain rights. By paying a monthly premium, consumers are contracting their insurer to provide professional services including management of the claims process, protecting their rights and negotiating with other insurers on their behalf.

“When consumers decide against claiming through their own insurance and instead, in their private capacity, approach the insurer of the person or company ‘responsible’ for the accident, they are not protected by contractual law because their contract is with their own insurer.”

Barry believes that the ‘no-claims bonus’ has created an environment in which consumers pay for services they are then discouraged from using.

“Settling claims is a complex, admin-intensive negotiation process that consumers are not equipped to manage on their own – that is partly why they should retain an insurance company. A ‘no-claims bonus’ is a marketing tool that ultimately does consumers a disservice because in the event of an accident, they are without the support of their insurance company when it is needed most.”

Protecting the ‘no-claim bonus’

Does it really matter if consumers decide against claiming to protect their ‘no-claim bonus’? Barry believes that doing so places other drivers and the insurance industry at risk.

“After an accident, consumers may drive in unrepaired vehicles that aren’t roadworthy while they attempt to settle their claims – this endangers other road users. The impact on the insurance industry is significant too. There is an emotional impact on employees dealing with consumers who aren’t their clients. Conflict between consumers and insurers brings the whole industry into disrepute.”

For the promise of a ‘no-claims bonus’ it is the individual consumer who suffers most, in terms of time, frustration and lack of legal representation, says Barry. He points out that the Insurance Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over third-party claims.

“The Insurance Ombudsman will investigate consumer complaints against their own insurer – again, an insurer only has an obligation to their own policy-holders,” Barry adds.

Ultimately, no insurance policy should be purchased on the basis of a no-claims bonus. In fact, consumers should consider asking for a cost-comparison to determine their premium without a ‘no-claim’ bonus.

East Rand declared catastrophe zone by insurers

Johannesburg – The East Rand has been declared a natural catastrophe (NatCat) zone by insurers after heavy rainfalls and flash floods caused extensive damage to vehicles and property in the vicinity of Linksfield and the Gilloolys interchange on Wednesday.

While it’s still too early to quantify the extent of the damage, expectations are that it will be significant and that claims handling will be kicked into high gear to deal with the influx, Mandy Barrett, manager of personal lines marketing and sales at insurance brokerage and risk adviser firm Aon South Africa said on Friday.

During the last four years, weather-related damage has cost the insurance industry a staggering R2.5bn in losses, according to Aon South Africa.

Insurance claims are pouring in and some insurers have set up facilities at salvage yards for vehicles that were submerged to be immediately assessed.

Huge property losses have also been incurred, especially in the vicinity of the Jukskei River, which burst its banks.

“While severe weather is not an uncommon occurrence in South Africa, what makes the events in Gauteng particularly noteworthy is the net retained exposure that the province represents. Gauteng’s built-up area constitutes only 0.5% of SA’s land surface area, but due to the fact that the area is so densely populated, Gauteng constitutes 35% of the exposure to catastrophic events such as hail storms and flash floods,” said Barrett.

According to Aon, severe weather conditions, from golf ball-sized hail to heavy rainfalls and flooding are a far more regular occurrence and will continue to increase in frequency and voracity.

Consumers, therefore, need to make sure that their insurance policies cover them comprehensively, not only for the damage, but for any alternative arrangements that need to be made while the damage is being repaired.

Barrett provides some tips regarding insurance and claims:

Not all insurance is created equal

Many consumers still believe SA is more insulated from extreme weather conditions such as hail storms, floods and strong winds, so they tend to cut their cover on the flawed premise that extreme weather events are too unlikely to happen.

You don’t have to live in the vicinity of a dam, lake or river to experience floods – this week’s events in Gauteng prove.

“One of the most important learnings that consumers can take out of the recent weather catastrophes is to assess whether they are properly covered for worst case scenarios before it is too late. In this regard, a professional broker plays an invaluable role,” says Barrett.

Filing your claim for a NatCat

Notify your broker or insurer of the claim as soon as possible. Assess the damage and make a comprehensive list of all items and damage. With the building industry heading for its annual shutdown in December, the race is on to get damages sorted;

– With high claims volumes, there’s likely to be a shortage of rental cars so don’t delay;

– If your house was flooded, try and clear out as much water as possible to prevent further or permanent damage;

– Take photos – this will be very helpful to the insurance assessor for repair purposes;

– Insurers work with pre-approved repair companies – check with your broker before you embark on any emergency repairs with non-approved contractors or you may pay a higher excess;

– Based on previous scenarios with high claims volumes, you could experience delays in repair due to the strain on available capacity of service providers. Some insurers might not extend cover such as car hire where the repair is authorised, but the repairer is unable to complete motor vehicle repairs within the required period.

If the car is still in a driveable state, wait until the new year to take your vehicle for repairs if the repairer cannot confirm that this will be completed before the year-end close.

– Talk to your broker to make sure you are properly insured for all eventualities going forward. Under-insurance is possibly the biggest reason for partial pay out of claims, if not outright rejection.


Denise Shaw, chief operating officer of Standard Insurance said many insurance companies issue SMS or electronic warnings to clients about potential storms and hail.

“These notifications should be taken seriously and steps should be taken to secure homes and park cars under cover,” she said.

She said customers with claims arising from this week’s storms should submit their claims as soon as they can.

“We are working to ensure that all claims are processed as quickly as possible; where required assessors will be sent out to inspect damage and assist with facilitating repairs,” said Shaw.

She provides some cautionary tips for motorists who are caught unawares while driving:

– Try to avoid being on the road, but if you are, drive slowly and carefully;

– Reduce speed to match the road conditions and increase the following distance to at least a three-car distance;

– Turn headlights on so that you can be seen by other vehicles;

– If you can, pull off the road safely and activate your car’s hazard lights as a warning to other motorists;

– Do not park under trees as there is a risk of falling branches and debris;

– Be proactive and ensure that windscreen wipers are always in good condition so that they can cope with sudden downpours;

– Never get out of your vehicle, because of possible injury from hailstones;

– Do not attempt to drive through water washing across the road, or across low water bridges. Your car could stall in the water. It requires only about 15cm of rapidly moving water to wash a car away;

Additional steps to avoid damage to homes and property when storms strike:

– If possible, make sure computers, TVs, decoders and other equipment is disconnected from wall sockets to avoid damage caused by electricity surges caused by lightning strikes;

– Check that roofs do not have broken or loose tiles that allow the entry of water during heavy downpours;

– Ensure that roof gutters are clean and unclogged, so that water does not accumulate and seep through roof tiles onto ceilings;

– Keep the windows of the house shut to reduce the chance of them being hit by hail or shattered by high winds.