Steve Welbourne, director of sales at motor claims specialists Town & Country Assistance, explains what Accident Management is all about...

There exists among some fleet managers within the UK fleet market a popular mis-conception that Accident Management just involves the recovery and repair of damaged vehicles. In fact, a full service should involve not only those elements but also, and of equal importance, the processing of the motor claim for the driver and client. Additionally, the pursuit of any losses incurred through the fault of the responsible third party driver and his or her insurer, commonly called Uninsured Loss Recovery, plus effective Risk Management.

When these four elements are in place, the fleet manager can be comfortable that he is getting the most from his Accident management service.

Obvious advantages to outsourcing this key function is cost control, allied with savings. This is particularly applicable to the market place at the moment, with a hardening motor market bringing increased fleet insurance premiums to bear. One of the most common ways these increases are controlled is for fleets to carry larger proportions of their own risk by increasing deductibles, changing comprehensive cover to third party only cover or in extreme cases carrying the insurance risk entirely themselves.

Taking a greater proportion of self insurance gets the premium within down, but creates a need for cost control within the area of self-insurance. This is an area of expertise tailor-made for Accident Management companies, who will manage the cost of repairs at a competitive labour rate. This should also reduce the VOR [Vehicle Off Road] time significantly.

This would, in the past, have been an area where the insurance company would have played a pivotal role. The beauty of an Accident Management programme is it can control even the smaller claims, which can total up to a significant proportion of any fleet's Accidental Damage claims experience. The use of cost control measures, in particular electronic estimating systems using Thatcham times backed up by digital images, will ensure the most economic repair costs on all claims regardless of quantum. For the fleet increasing its proportion of self-insurance this is not an option, it's an imperative.

Another key area of added value, which I touched on earlier, is the removal of the irksome administrative burden of looking after the motor claim from start to finish from both the driver and the fleet manager. In an ideal situation the driver should be able to make one call to his Accident Management 24-hour helpline number, and have no further involvement other than the completion and signature of an electronically generated claim form. Every other element of the process should be looked after for him including the provision of a replacement vehicle, chasing estimates, dealing with insurers and pursuing Uninsured Loss Recoveries. The vehicle should then be returned to him by the estimated completion date with the minimum of inconvenience implicit in the service.

For fleet managers the advantages are obvious: instead of worrying about managing accidents they can get on with core tasks such as new contract negotiation and risk management. They are safe in the knowledge that an external provider is policing the cost and management of any company accidents. That provider will not only be reducing the average claim cost but also ensuring that VOR [Vehicle Off Road] time is being minimised. Both these elements are core functions of Accident Management provision.

This adds up to a compelling case for fleet managers and financial controllers to seriously consider the outsourcing of their Accident Management function.