Auto insurance: Here’s how to avoid disputes this monsoon

Published in Livemint

Every year during monsoon, insurance companies are flooded with claims of engine seizure due to water ingression. The insurers outright reject these claims. The reason: since it’s not an accident, it’s not covered under the policy.

In technical terms, engine seizure occurring due to water is known as a hydrostatic lock. It usually happens when a person tries to start the car, which was submerged in water. It can, therefore, happen when you try to start the vehicle after the engine was submerged in water due to excessive rains that caused flooding.

It can also happen when you are driving through a heavily waterlogged area, the car switches off and you try to restart it multiple times. “As such events are not ‘accidents’, they are not covered under the policy,” said Sanjay Datta, chief—underwriting, claims, reinsurance and actuarial, ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company.

Precautions you should take

A few precautions can, however, help to get the claims settled in case of damages due to flooding. If your car is submerged in water, wait for the water to recede. Inform the insurer about the situation and ask it to suggest the next steps. “In such cases, an insurance company could ask you to tow the vehicle to the closest garage in its network for inspection,” said Datta. Unless you have a roadside assistance cover or add-on, you would need to bear the cost of towing the car to the garage.

Don’t try to start the car. Also, avoid inspection from a local mechanic.

If the car was submerged to the extent that the water entered the cabin, it can damage sensors and electrical equipment. It is, therefore, best to get the car inspected from an authorized garage. “In case components inside the cabin are damaged, the insurer would only pay for factory-fitted parts. Anything you installed from the dealer would not be covered unless the policy states so or you have taken an add-on cover that reimburses for the extra fittings,” said Animesh Das, head of product strategy, Acko General Insurance.

Das also suggests that car owners who are in cities that face flooding due to rains should opt for an add-on that covers accessories. “To reduce the cost, opt for accessories that are exposed, or you believe can get damaged due to water entering the car cabin. A fog light, for example, has higher chances of damage. A stereo and speakers don’t,” said Das.

Moreover, hydrostatic lock when driving through a heavily waterlogged area can be disputable. The driver might not be aware of the level of flooding. In such a case, it can be considered an accident. But if the driver tries to start the vehicle multiple times, it’s negligence. “In some cases, hydrostatic lock can fall under the grey area where the policyholder can take the view that it is an accident,” said Das.

The best thing to do is to park the car if the water level is above the tyres. This would show that the driver took adequate precautions to avoid any damage to the four-wheeler. Also, if the car switches off, don’t try to start it. Call up the insurer after the water recedes and ask for guidance.

Consider add-on covers

To avoid disputes with an insurance company, the best thing to do is to opt for engine protection add-on that covers all kinds of damages to the engine, including the hydrostatic locking. It comes at a nominal cost and would help to avoid disputes. “But if you haven’t purchased the add-on at the time of buying the policy, you have to wait until the policy comes up for renewal,” said Abhishek Bondia, principal officer and managing director, SecureNow.in, an insurance broking firm.

Next time you renew your policy, ensure you opt for roadside assistance and engine protector add-on covers.

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