Warning: before you take out car insurance, you MUST read this...
Vehicle Insurance should be about choice. But there are auto insurers who don’t let you choose who repairs your vehicle!
If you choose the wrong insurer you may lose the opportunity to decide what happens to your car after an accident. The problem with car insurance is you only know you’ve chosen the wrong Insurer when you need them most - and then it’s too late.
For most people, their car is their most important asset after their home. If their car is involved in an accident, they care about how it is repaired and they care about who repairs it.
Some insurance companies say you are able to choose your repairer, but effectively exclude you from the repair process. They dictate who repairs your car. They dictate how it will be repaired, where it will be repaired, when it will be repaired and the price.
Did you know some insurers require that your damaged vehicle be towed to an Assessment Centre far removed from your premises for competitive tendering? Then the insurer allocates the job to a repairer of their choice. These insurers have taken away your control over what happens to your car.
Other insurance companies allow you the opportunity to choose the repairer you wish to deal with. They are prepared to negotiate a fair price for a quality job by a repairer of your choice. These insurers respect the fact that you paid the premium and give you the opportunity to decide the fate of your car.
There is often only a relatively small difference between the premiums of different insurers. There can, however, be a very large difference between the way your car is repaired.
Don’t find you have been unlucky twice over:
- Unlucky your car was in an accident
- Unlucky you have an insurer who takes away your choice of the repairer
The Accredited Body Repairers who are members of the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC) can assist you with information on insurance companies who will give you the freedom to choose your repairer.
You may find an insurer will say that you have not lost the freedom to choose your repairer. But have you? They can make it very hard for you to exercise any choice by adopting the following tactics. They will tell you:
- They can’t guarantee the repair
- They will delay your repairs and settlement
- They will cash settle you for the lowest quote, but you are then on your own in getting your car repaired
- They may even threaten to cancel your insurance policy
If the above has happened to you, you have lost your freedom of choice.
These are all tactics adopted by some insurers against motorists who try to have their car repaired by their preferred repairer, tactics designed to stop you exercising choice; to pressure you into doing what the insurer wants.
The solution? If you want the opportunity to decide what happens to your car:
Before you take out or renew your car insurance policy confirm that:
In the event of an accident, the insurer you are considering will assess and repair at the premises of your preferred repairer at a fair and reasonable negotiated price.
If you are not satisfied with the answer, ask your Accredited Repairer for advice as to which insurance companies will give you real freedom of choice.
Understanding the OHS obligations of fleet management
There are some facts that both business owners and fleet managers need to know regarding their obligations under OH&S legislation for fleet maintenance. As work related driving is potentially a high risk activity, without this knowledge you may leave yourself and your business unprotected and at risk of work safety charges, financial penalties, legal costs and other associated costs.
The main points include:
Fleet Vehicles as A Place of Work
Any time an employee undertakes any paid work duties using a vehicle provided by a company, the vehicle is deemed to be a workplace. As such the employer is also deemed to be responsible for the employee and the workplace under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004. Employer obligations relate to the provision and maintenance of the condition of the vehicle, the employees who drive the vehicle and the general public, including other drivers and pedestrians.
Business awareness is critical as fleet vehicles travel about three times the distance of privately owned vehicles (1), and research shows that fleet vehicles have a higher rate of involvement in crashes. In fact, vehicle accidents represent 41% of all compensated work fatalities (2).
When employees are using company provided vehicles to undertake paid work of any kind the obligations under the OH&S legislation apply to the company, the company’s directors, managers, supervisors and workers.
Safety Is the Duty Of Employers
Under Section 21 of the OHS Act, an employer has a duty or responsibility to provide and maintain, as so far as is reasonably practicable, a safe and healthy working environment for its employees. The majority of the responsibility for employee and vehicle safety is vested in the employer as they control the work context. It is the employer and management that determine the work context, work systems and success measures. These management decisions determine if the work environment and employee are safe, and if the work tasks being completed are being done safely. It is the duty of the employee to follow instructions and use the work systems and equipment as directed by management. As a consequence the majority of accountability for workplace safety risk, injuries and incidents remains with the employer. This translates to charges, penalties and financial responsibilities associated with workplace injuries.
Management Accountabilities Expansion
Recent legislation changes have increased the focus of liability for safety in the workplace to include a broader scope than before. Now employees, managers, employers and board members have increased accountabilities to protect worker safety. Whilst this makes good sense, it means anyone with a role in supervising the work environment and work duties of others will have accountability for safety in that work context. Managers, supervisors and board members will face increased accountability for their decisions and work safety outcomes. Now managers, including fleet managers, will increasingly face the spotlight for safety risk management decisions such as selection of vehicles, programs for maintenance and repair, safe use of vehicles and worker competency to use the vehicle safely.
The increased management accountability is augmented by increased penalties which include a maximum penalty for each breach by an individual of up to $215,010. Multiple breaches may apply.
Vehicles as Machinery And Equipment
Vehicles are deemed as machinery. Each vehicle requires a rigorous recorded evidence of a maintenance program to protect the safety of the vehicle and driver. The documentation required in cases of vehicle collisions and subsequent investigation by WorkSafe includes evidence of regular vehicle checks and that vehicles are maintained to manufacturer’s requirements.
To lower exposure to risk for the company, fleet manager and workers, efficient and documented safety control programs are required to be implemented. WorkSafe examples of effective control of vehicle safety and systems of work include:
- Vehicles are chosen against criteria covering active and passive safety features
- Driver and vehicle safety is included as part of the OHS program
- Regular vehicle checks undertaken
- All vehicles are maintained to manufacturer’s service requirements
Manufacturer’s standards play a critical part in providing minimum standard for repair of vehicles and maintenance of vehicle safety. Adherence to these minimum standards provides protection of vehicles, worker safety, and fleet manager’s liability and exposure to personal and professional risk.
(1) Will Murray, Sharon Newnam, Barry Watson, Jeremy Davey and Cynthia Schonfeld. Evaluating and improving fleet safety in Australia, Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q) report prepared for the Department of Transport and Regional Services, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, 2003 as cited in A handbook for workplaces: Guide to safe work related driving November 2008,, accessed 16/05/2011
(2) Mark Symmons and Narelle Haworth. Safety attitudes and behaviours in work-related driving – Stage 1: Analyses of crash data, Monash University Accident Research Centre, Report number 232, 2005.pg 3, cited in A handbook for workplaces: Guide to safe work related driving November 2008, accessed 16/05/2011