Motor Vehicle Assessments – Why Is It Necessary And How Long Should It Take?

In a recent media release by the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce on 29 February 2024, the Suncorp Group was criticised for making customers ‘wait up to five months to receive assessments for accident damaged vehicles’, indicating a ‘broader systematic issue’.

They further opined that ‘an accident damaged vehicle should take no longer than five working days for an insurer to assess once a repairer provides an estimate’.

How does this affect parties in a motor vehicle accident?

In the occurrence of a motor vehicle accident, for example where a driver rear ends a stationary vehicle, the party at fault is usually liable in negligence to the other party (Plaintiff) for damages arising from the accident.

When assessing damages, the applicable guiding principle is that the Plaintiff should receive an amount that will put them back into the position they would have been, had the collision not occurred.

The law has established that the sum claimed by the Plaintiff must not exceed the actual cost of repairs, and must not be excessive, extravagant and/or unreasonable: Stocovaz v Fung [2007] NSWCA 199.

This is why motor vehicle assessments are important and necessary, where the quote provided by a repairer is assessed to determine if the repairs, labour and parts quoted are fair and reasonable to reinstate the damaged vehicle back to the same position prior to the accident.

Most insurers incorporate a motor vehicle assessment regarding the quote for repairs before approving the repairs to the vehicle.

If, however, the assessment is not carried out promptly, the owner will not know when their vehicle will be repaired, or the exact costs of repairs.

This was referenced in the media release where the VACC stated ‘Suncorp Group takes anywhere from three weeks to five months to return an assessment and, in the meantime, the customer and repairer are in limbo’.

Hire car duration

A delay in assessment further affects the hire car costs incurred in a motor vehicle accident.

In addition to being liable for the cost of repairs, the party at fault will also be required to cover damages for physical inconvenience and loss of amenity of use that flows from the loss of use of their vehicle at [34] in Arsalan v Rixon; Nguyen v Cassim [2021] HCA 40.

This may mean that the Plaintiff is entitled to the costs of a hire car to cover the period where the Plaintiff’s vehicle was put in the shop for repairs. The hire car would be used instead of the damaged vehicle to cover the inconvenience of the Plaintiff not being able to use their damaged vehicle.

If Suncorp or other insurers are delaying their assessment, the damaged vehicle is likely to sit in the repair shop for a longer period of time awaiting assessment and repairs, thereby extending the hire period of the hired car by the Plaintiff.

Key takeaways

If you are the liable party (or the insurer of a liable party) in a motor vehicle accident, it is important to make sure that:

  1. The repairs to the damaged vehicle are assessed promptly; and
  2. Any such repairs are carried out in a timely manner.

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