When a typhoon hits Hong Kong, naturally most people will stay at home. Still, there may be times when you need to drive in bad weather. Many believe that if a car accident happens or if your car gets damaged by shattered glass while parked on the roadside when the No. 8 typhoon signal is in effect, your car insurer will not compensate you for your loss, but is that true?
In this article, Kwiksure will examine the factors that insurers will consider when deciding whether or not to compensate, as well as the claims procedures for third-party and comprehensive car insurance.
Comprehensive Insurance Will Compensate for Vehicle Damage Caused by Typhoons
Contrary to popular belief, in most cases comprehensive car insurance will provide protection against severe weather conditions, but third-party insurance will not cover damage to your own vehicle. In other words, severe weather is not an “excluded event”. If your car is damaged because of the bad weather, your insurer will provide compensation based on the actual repair costs, and if your car is declared a total loss, your insurer will typically compensate you based on the market value of your car. The calculation of depreciation will normally take into account factors such as the age of your vehicle and its mileage.
Of course, like other types of claims, when you file a claim with your insurer, you may need to pay a deductible (if applicable) out of pocket. What’s more, because of your claim, your NCD will be reduced, and you may see your car insurance premiums go up next year.
Vehicle Owner's Efforts to Avoid Damage is Crucial
One of the most important factors insurers consider when deciding whether to compensate is whether you have "taken all reasonable steps to protect your car from typhoon damage". For example, if you knowingly take risks and drive through flooded areas or drive to coastal areas to “see the storm in its full fury”, it can be seen as a failure to protect the vehicle. If your insurer believes that you intentionally put your car in harm's way, they may refuse to pay the claim. Ways to protect your vehicle include:
For third party car insurance claims
If, unfortunately, you have only purchased a third party car insurance plan, your insurer will not provide any compensation for your car damage or loss. But this does not mean that there is nothing you can do.
As mentioned above, we have received many claims requests for damages due to flooding and falling objects lately. If you believe there are third parties also responsible for your damage/loss, you may lodge civil claims against them. These third parties can be, for instance, a car park management company, a property owner whose window fell onto your car, etc. In such cases, after you have reported the incident to the police, you may ask an independent surveyor to come to the site and assess the situation.
Furthermore, you should note that it should be the third parties that you lodge claims against, and not their insurers. Whether their insurers are willing to provide reimbursement for their payments should not be your concern.
Last not certainly not least, if you are submitting claims for maintenance fees under $50,000, you may consider going to the small claims tribunal where you would not need a lawyer. However, if the claims exceed $50,000, you should hire a lawyer and consider bringing the case to a higher-level court.
Avoid driving in severe weather conditions unless absolutely necessary
Keep the headlights on when visibility is low
Avoid parking in areas prone to flooding or mudslides
Ensure all windows and doors are securely closed
However, please note that the above information is for reference only. Since different insurance policies provide different coverages, you should carefully read the terms and conditions in your insurance policy documents.
Comprehensive Car Insurance Claims
The procedure for claiming car damage caused by a typhoon is similar to the general procedure for claiming car damage:
If there are any injuries, you should immediately call the police.
Even if there are no injuries, you should still file a report with the police within 48 hours and submit an accident report/claim form, a copy of your police statement, accident photos or videos, and any other relevant information to your insurer.
Your vehicle will be towed to a repair shop for assessment. Insurers typically do not specify which repair shop you should go to unless it is only for repairing your windshield. Windshields are a special component of a car, and most insurers have designated repair shops for them.
You will need to pay the deductible to your insurer.
Once the repairs are done, your insurer will pay for them on your behalf.
Please note that even if you consider your car a total loss (e.g., due to flooding), you should still follow the first three steps of the above claims process. If the repair shop subsequently determines that your car needs to be scrapped, your insurer will issue a check directly to you as compensation.
Third-party Insurance Claims
If, unfortunately, you have purchased only third-party insurance, your insurer will not provide any compensation for the damage to your car. However, this does not mean there is nothing you can do.
As mentioned earlier, we have received a number of claims recently related to flooding and falling objects. If you believe that a third party is responsible for your losses, you can seek compensation from them in a civil action. Examples of third parties include the management company of the parking lot or the owner of a property whose glass window fell onto your vehicle. In these cases, after reporting to the police, you can arrange for an independent assessor to come to the scene to assess the situation.
Furthermore, it is important to note that you are claiming against the third party themselves, not their insurer. Therefore, whether or not their insurer is willing to compensate them should not be your concern.
Finally, if the repair cost you are claiming is less than HKD $50,000, you may consider filing a claim with the Small Claims Tribunal as legal representation is not required there. However, if the amount of compensation you are seeking exceeds HKD $50,000, then you should hire a lawyer and consider pursuing the matter in a higher-level court.