Friday, 25 April 2014

Court car crash guide could help cut claims

Culled from past cases, it gives drivers idea of where they stand
By Christopher Tan, The Straits Times, 24 Apr 2014

A GUIDE book launched by the State Courts yesterday could help keep a lid on claims arising from motor accidents, industry players said.

The 148-page Motor Accident Guide, written in simple English and illustrated by dozens of diagrams culled from past court cases, gives readers an idea of where they stand should they take an accident claim to court.

Judicial Commissioner See Kee Oon said at the book launch yesterday that the guide was meant to "assist the general public and key players in the motor industry to amicably and expeditiously resolve their traffic accident claims".

With it, "we have made available to the public... guidelines which the courts regularly use to assess liability", he added.

About 10,000 to 12,000 accident claims go before the courts a year, accounting for one-third of all civil cases.

Motor insurers have noted that the cost of accident claims invariably soar if they are brought before the courts, as claimants factor in legal costs. This can result in payouts trebling - more, if settlement is delayed.

Ultimately, the costs get passed on to motorists in the form of higher insurance premiums.

General Insurance Association (GIA) of Singapore executive director Derek Teo said the guide should "encourage people to settle out of court".

"In the longer term, the cost of claims will be contained," he said.

Singapore Motor Workshop Association president Francis Lim said the guide will help workshop operators "give better advice" to customers.

"Some customers may not believe the workshop because they think it is biased. But with this guide, things are clearer," he said.

Lawyer Monoj Kumar Roy said the aim of the guide book is sound. "It is always a good idea to settle out of court," he said.

But he added that he needed time to go through it to see how useful it was.

Still, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) welcomed its publication, calling it timely.

Case president Lim Biow Chuan said the association has been working with the Automobile Association of Singapore and the GIA on ways to keep claims costs - and consequently, insurance premiums - down.

One initiative being worked on now is for accident damage surveyors, who are usually former mechanics, to be registered.

He said the cost of repairs hinges largely on a surveyor's report, and right now, "there is no barrier on entry" for the profession.

Mr Lim of the workshop association also said it is working with the authorities to register and certify workshop operators to ensure better quality of work.

"We need motor workshops to be regulated and technicians and mechanics to be licensed," Mr Lim said.

"The entry level must be raised because a simple thing like how brakes are replaced can be a safety issue," he said. "Lives can be at stake."

He revealed that the association is working with the Institute for Technical Education to certify existing mechanics.

The association is also working with Case to have an accreditation scheme for workshops, so customers can be assured of quality at an accredited outfit.

The guide is available at the information counter of the State Courts building in Havelock Square at $15 a copy.

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