The Strange Case of the Car, the Crash, the Claim and the Missing Photographs

Man takes photograph of car for insurance purposes


A recent car insurance case, and its ruling by the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance, carries a stark warning for people who are not great with their paperwork.


If you find adulting a little challenging, you need to read this. A South African motorist had his car insurance claim rejected after forgetting (or failing) to do his paperwork... and his story is a picture-perfect reminder that, while your insurance company isn't looking to catch you out, it is counting on you to take care of your admin.


The car insurance case


So here's what happened: in April 2019 Mr J (this is a true story from the files of the Ombudsman for Short-term insurance, but names aren't important) was involved in a motor vehicle accident. His ride was a shiny new Mercedes AMG, so obviously he submitted a car insurance claim. The claim was rejected because, according to the insurer, the policy was not in force at the time the accident took place.


That February, Mr J had reversed the debit order on his insurance premium because he'd sold his old car and bought the new one. Then in March, his insurer told him that his new car would only be covered from that April, once they'd received payment of the outstanding premium and – here's the important bit – once he'd sent them photographs of his new car.


The policy had automatically lapsed when Mr J didn't pay the premium. And besides, Mr J still needed to update the policy to cover his new car. The insurer asked him – twice by phone and three times by SMS – to send them eight photographs of the car. Side, side, back, front... the usual deal.


He didn't. So when his car was damaged in that accident, the insurer had no way of knowing if the damage they were paying to repair was a result of the crash or if the bumps and dents had been there all along.


The insurer denied the claim, so Mr J filed an appeal to the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance (OSTI).


The decision, and what it means for you


'Mr J was informed of the fact that the February premium was not paid and that he was adequately advised of the requirements to reinstate the policy,' OSTI ruled. 'Despite several requests, the photographs of the vehicle were not provided to the insurer. As the conditions for cover were not met, there was no policy in force at the time of loss. The insurer's rejection of the claim was upheld.'


That's bad news for Mr J, and it's a warning to anybody who isn't up to date with their paperwork – or is generally rubbish with their admin. (Invoices always late, car licence always expired, passport not renewed since 1997... You know who you are.)


Insurance companies count on the insured (that's you) to keep their admin up to date, and to tick the required boxes on their insurance policy applications. Mr J paid his premiums and drove around in his schweet new AMG, blissfully unaware that he wasn't actually covered by his car insurance; but you can also see the insurance company's point of view. Eight photographs. It's all they asked for.


To make sure you're getting the best motor vehicle insurance coverage for your needs, use Hippo's free online comparison platform. It'll let you check prices as well as details, so you know exactly what you're comparing.


Just... when you're done, make sure you keep your admin in order.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial, legal or medical advice.

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