Insurance

BGH strengthens the rights of the insured after a car accident

Summary

Anyone who leaves the scene of the accident without waiting for the injured party does not automatically have to fear losing insurance cover. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) has decided that motorists can inform their insurance company retrospectively after […]

BGH strengthens the rights of the insured after a car accident.  Away from the scene of the accident: Comprehensive insurance still has to pay (source: Thinkstock by Getty-Images)

Anyone who leaves the scene of the accident without waiting for the injured party does not automatically have to fear losing insurance cover. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) has decided that motorists can inform their insurance company retrospectively after a self-inflicted accident such as sheet metal damage to another vehicle. If the notification is given “immediately afterwards”, the comprehensive insurance is not lost, according to a judgment. (Az: IV ZR 97/11)

The person who caused the accident does not notify the police

In the specific case, the driver of an off-road vehicle had strayed from the road at night on a country road near Hoyerswerda (Saxony) and hit a tree – according to his account, because deer were standing on the road that he wanted to avoid. He notified the ADAC, which towed the vehicle. The next day he informed his insurance company – but not the police and the road construction office, which is responsible for the damaged tree.

Therefore, the comprehensive insurance did not want to replace the damage to the car in the amount of around 27,000 euros. She saw the criminal offense of “unauthorized removal from the scene of the accident” – colloquially: hit-and-run – fulfilled. That is why the insurance does not have to pay.

The accident must be reported to the insurance company immediately

The BGH contradicted this in its judgment. It is true that anyone who – as in this case – has legitimately left the scene of the accident and then does not immediately inform the police or the injured party can be punishable. In such cases, however, it is sufficient if the insurance company is informed in good time, the BGH has now decided. There is no such thing as an “automatism” that if the criminal provision is violated, insurance cover is also lost.

“How does the insurance company benefit from talking on the answering machine of the road construction department during the night?” Asked the presiding judge Barbara Mayen at the hearing.

There is no insurance coverage in the case of “classic” hit-and-run

As the judges indicated in the hearing, the decision should not change anything about the fact that insurance cover is no longer applicable in the “classic” hit-and-run route: In other words, when the driver simply leaves without waiting long enough or having his or her personal details identified. The BGH referred the case back to the Dresden Higher Regional Court for further clarification.