How to avoid being downgraded after an accident


Lerato Khumalo

If there is an accident in traffic and the insurance company has paid for the damage, the matter is not over. The insurer usually gives drivers a no-claims bonus. Can this be prevented?

After an accident, it can be cheaper for policyholders to pay the third-party liability or fully comprehensive insurance damage themselves. The reason: as soon as the insurance company steps in, it downgrades the customer’s no-claims bonus. And that can be expensive.

Insurers often downgrade customers by several levels after a claim. In the following years, the insured person pays the higher percentage of their tariff linked to the corresponding no-claims class (SF class). It does not matter whether the claim is only a very small loss or a total loss. In subsequent years, this results in additional costs, which can usually amount to four to five times, but sometimes even almost eight times, the current annual premium.

It also takes many years to get back to the original SF class of car insurance. After each year without a claim, it becomes one class cheaper. The amount at which it is worth paying for the claim yourself can be determined using a free calculator from Stiftung Warentest on the Internet.

If the damage has already been settled, insured parties can often buy it back from their insurance company. After an accident, there is usually six months to decide. However, there are also tariffs for fully comprehensive insurance that generally exclude this.

A tip: Always let the insurer pay first and then consider within the deadline whether it is worth buying back the claim. The insurance company usually only pays the claim once the final sum is clear. And if in doubt, it will also reject any excessive claims from the opposing party through legal proceedings, which the insured party then does not have to pay for themselves.

Alternatively, you can take out discount protection. This will allow the insurance company to regulate without downgrading. This often costs a surcharge of 15 to 25 percent on the annual premium, but could be worth it. But be careful: when changing insurance, the new provider usually asks the previous provider about the damage and reclassifies the customer. In the event of an accident, this usually results in a downgrade to the same class as without the previous protection option.

Drivers with old contracts and in the highest SF classes could still benefit from the so-called discount saver. Here, the customer is downgraded, but only to the extent that the previous percentage to be paid remains the same. This is because in the highest SF classes the percentages are the same. Insured persons can only use the option once. Here, too, it is worth considering whether it might not be cheaper to pay for the damage yourself. New contracts hardly ever offer the discount saver.

Accident-free drivers are meant to benefit from the no-claims discounts. There are no SF classes for partial comprehensive insurance. This is because it covers damage that the driver cannot influence through his behavior, such as storms or theft.