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Accident Claims Centre and challenges of settling financial losses

By Ameh Ochojila, Abuja 
14 July 2022   |   2:43 am
The disclosure that 106, 256 Nigerians died in road traffic accidents between January 2019 and December 2021 is alarming.

Aliyu Bagudu Abubakar

The disclosure that 106, 256 Nigerians died in road traffic accidents between January 2019 and December 2021 is alarming.

The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) reported that 14,773 people were killed in the 31,116 crashes that occurred during that time period. Aside from the casualty figures, it was reported that 91,483 people were injured in various ways. During the study period, the year 2021 had the highest number of accidents, with a total of 10,637 accidents involving 35,791 persons, 5,101 of whom died.

Experts have also estimated a loss of about N80 billion yearly due to road accidents in Nigeria, which include all subjects involved in road traffic accidents.

The Federal Government had previously established a claim shop known as One Stop Claims Assistance and Resource Centre (OSCAR) in an effort to cushion the effects of financial and economic losses caused by road accidents. 

OSCAR, a department of the Legal Aid Council (LAC), is responsible for expediting and processing timely payment of insurance claims and compensations for motor vehicle accident victims.

According to Aliyu Bagudu Abubakar, Director General of the Council, the department was established to cushion losses resulting from motor vehicle accidents. It is responsible for facilitating the payment of insurance claims and compensation for victims of motor vehicle accidents as well as relatives of the deceased.

“The Federal Government established OSCAR to reduce the financial and economic damages caused by traffic accidents. Insurance claims and compensations for victims of motor vehicle accidents are expedited, processed, and paid on time by the department (OSCAR,” he stated.

Other activities of the unit, he said, include the following: Daily routine visits to different Police Divisions, Hospitals and Mortuaries to source for motor accident cases; visit mortuaries for updates on details of next of kin in “hit & run” cases, among others.

The department was also to collate, receive accident cases, contact Police officers and doctors in charge of numerous cases received, and relatives of victims. Referrals are received from Desk Agencies Motor Traffic Divisions for intervention.

Not only for police and OSCAR-assisted mediation in police stations, but also for photo studios – printing of photographs of damaged vehicles, injured victims (showing their disabilities), and deceased victims for claim processing, as well as visits to insurance companies for claim processing and updates.

Visits to various Police Divisions, Hospitals, and Mortuaries on a daily basis to search for automobile accident cases; Visit mortuaries to collect the most up-to-date information on the next of kin in “hit-and-run” cases, among other things, are also part of the unit’s duties.

In 2006, a Presidential Committee was formed to oversee the development of a One Stop Claims Shop for Vehicle Insurance to address factors that prevent motor accident victims from receiving compensation/entitlement under the law (e.g., difficulty obtaining substantiating documents such as medical reports, police reports, etc. for processing claims).

In 2007, what is currently known as – OSCAR- was formally introduced. OSCAR is a child of the Department for International Development (DFID).

After two years, specifically, in 2009, DFID needed an agency to hand over OSCAR to for continuity. To that end, the Federal Government decided to hand over the management of OSCAR to Legal Aid Council, through her parent ministry, the Federal Ministry of Justice, following a successful bid among other government agencies such as the National Insurance Commission, Nigeria Police Force, Federal Road Safety Commission, and others, to cushion the financial losses arising from accidents.

Nature of the accident is one of the factors that determine the sort of claim that will be processed. Motor Accident Vehicle Insurance Comprehensive Scheme (MAVICS) claims, which are processed at the National Insurance Commission, cover innocent people who are killed or severely crippled by uninsured or unknown drivers.

This claim is for an accident involving automobiles that have real vehicle insurance for insured motor accident claims. OSCAR assists in acquiring necessary papers from government authorities and streamlines claim to process at insurance companies.

Uninsured motor vehicle accident claims, such as those involving a motorist who does not have a valid driver’s licence, fall under this category. Vehicles with valid vehicle insurance are involved in insured motor vehicle accident claims, while those who don’t have a legal driver’s licence make uninsured motorist claims.

The director in charge of the OSCAR Unit, Mrs. Edith Adams, said: “Motor accident victims through the assistance of the OSCAR Unit have received more than N100, 000,000 as monetary compensation from Motor Insurance claims, MAVICS and Mediation services.
“Added to those are the repair of vehicles and replacement of damaged property. Victims with bodily injuries have received proper medical treatment too. The department’s interconnectivity across Desk Agencies has resulted in an increase in the number of walk-in clients and monetary compensations collected.” She said OSCAR’s posters were placed in the FCT Police Division and FCT Government Hospitals.

Unfortunately, she said, the centre was only visited by people who wanted to get motor vehicle insurance. Mrs. Adams pointed out that the unit is facing limited visibility and therefore needs sensitisation visits to hospitals to educate their management.

“Asokoro General Hospital, Maitama General Hospital, Wuse General Hospital, Kubuwa General Hospital, and Zuba General Hospital were all visited during a two-week tour. Bwari General Hospital, Gwagwalada General Hospital, Abaji General Hospital, Kwali General Hospital, and Karu General Hospital are among the hospitals visited,” she said.

During such familiarisation visits, they explained to the medical directors’ the importance of and necessity for synergy between the unit and the hospital to help accident victims with their claims.

The unit director noted that working together would help hospitals respond more quickly to requests for a medical report on victims, death certificates and for hit-and-run victims.

Such sensitisation, according to the director, would assist hospital employees in understanding the roles of the centre and hospital management, notably the Accident and Emergency A/E unit staff, who are usually the first point of contact.

While acknowledging the department’s low visibility, the medical directors of some of the hospitals that visited asked for more awareness and on the need to build trust with insurance companies. They also assured the council that all of their requests have been taken into consideration and that they will receive maximum support from them because they are all working together to save the lives of Nigerians in need.

“It was a different kettle of fish at the Maitama General Hospital, as the Medical Director in Charge stated explicitly that he cannot grant a death certificate, since it has a ‘clause’ cause of death and that a significant number of doctors are in problems as a result of the issuance of death certificates.

“Because Maitama does not perform autopsies, they are unable to provide a death certificate. An autopsy is a legally enforceable procedure that can be disputed in court. Death certificates are issued to the next of kin, which means that the next of kin must be identified because it becomes a problem if it falls into the wrong hands,” she said.

As a result, the MD suggested that the Legal Aid Council submits a request to the insurance companies to modify it to Notification of Death so that the general public can benefit more from the excellent services provided.

One of the accident victims, Anyinka Chimezie, an Abuja-based transporter, said he was involved in an accident on December 25, 2021, and almost lost his life. But when he approached his insurance company for his N1.3 million claims, the company ignored him for over six months. 

“When I got to OSCAR, after a series of interventions from them, the company asked for a downward review of my claims for settlement. However, it has not responded to my claim to date,” he claimed. 

He, however, said OSCAR went further to intervene between him and the driver that hit him, who agreed to cushion his financial pain. “Eventually, the driver gave me N200, 000,” he said.

A businessman, Chukwulo Modu, said he was involved in an accident some time ago. According to him, when OSCAR intervened, it really aided his situation.

He said: “The only thing I can tell you is that when I had an accident, OSCAR assisted me to recover some money. They were not the ones that paid me, but they helped tremendously in my recovering some monies.”