A friend of mine was unfortunately part of a huge car wreck last week. I was there with him from the beginning, and got to see first hand what happens when your luck runs out. This article is meant to take a look at how to be prepared for a motorcycle or car accident, the things that you can do to make sure that you get all the help you can once you are in a crash and unable to help yourself.
This is NOT an article about how to be safe on the road, or how to avoid a collision, or how to help someone else who has been in a crash. This post is purely about what you can do right now that may help you in future, for a situation where you meet with a mishap and are incapacitated/unconscious. There are plenty of good people in the world, but even they need some basic resources to help and save you and your family.
1. Always keep ~200,000 Rupees ($3200) cash distributed over different accounts
It might seem sad, weird, almost inhuman, but hospitals are businesses, and they need money, hard cash. You simply can’t depend on cashless insurance cards to pay for your treatment, there are just too many conditions and loopholes. Most small hospitals in India DO NOT accept insurance money, those that do need to get approval from your insurer before disbursing the amount. During holidays or off-hours, the approvals might get delayed. The hospital guys may refuse to continue treatment until at least some part of the payment is made. Their logic is really simple, you pay cash now and then claim reimbursement later.
One thing to note here is that there is no use keeping 2 lacs in 1 account, since the daily ATM withdrawal limit on most ATMs is 25-30k a day only. First day expenses are generally big, so make sure that you distribute the amount over at least 2 accounts with 2 debit cards. You can keep 100,000 liquid, and the other 100,000 in fixed deposits, which can be readily broken and used in case of emergency. Just make sure that you are prepared to withdraw 50-60k total within 1 day, with additional sums over the next few days and weeks.
One question that crops up here is that, should you carry the ATM cards with you or should you leave them at home? I would suggest go for a 50:50 approach, keep 1 debit card at home and 1 with you. The card in your wallet can be used for immediate payment by your family or friends. The card at home may be used for subsequent amounts over the course of your hospital stay.
2. Get good health and life insurance with accident coverage
We only understand the importance of insurance when things go south. A few hundred bucks a month can provide you a huge amount of coverage for many many years, still many people skip on it for many different reasons. Don’t pass over health and life insurance folks, you can control the things you do, but you can’t do anything to stop a 2 tonne bus ramming you from behind at 80 kmph.
Go with reputed insurance companies, big names. They might cost slightly more than smaller brands, but they are likely to provide a more hassle free experience when things really matter. Go for the maximum coverage plans that you can afford, and don’t skimp out on accident coverage. When you are lying in bed with your leg plastered and your head bandaged, that little additional money spent on getting a complete insurance package will make you feel so much better and safe.
3. Always carry your cashless insurance card
Most insurance companies provide your cashless insurance details on a small ATM sized card, carry it with you always. Even if the hospital accepts insurance payment, they will need to know what company you are with and what kind of coverage you have. The insurance card will provide them with all necessary details, plus contact numbers if they have any doubts.
This does not mean that you can completely depend on cashless insurance, just think of it as an add-on. Cashless, hassle-free insurance claim within a few hours of a mishap in India is a really difficult proposition. The card may not help you at the start, but will definitely come into play over the next few days, and help you save the cash.
4. Always carry 1 chip protected credit card
Credit cards are great for emergency situations, their withdrawal range only restricted to the credit limit, and mostly you can go even beyond that. Credit card payment works great in the time till your insurance claim gets approved. You save the cash payment, yet can spend big amounts that would be difficult to pay in hard money. Any credit card with around 100,000 Rupee ($1600) credit limit will be more than sufficient.
There is a distinct possibility of your wallet getting stolen after you are lying unconscious on the road, and a chip protected credit card will ensure that the thief has a hard time buying anything with your money. It is always a good idea to have your photo imprinted onto the card, and is signed by you at the back, making it slightly more safe in a worst case scenario.
5. Tell your family about your account, insurance and credit card details
All of the above mentioned points are pretty much useless if you family isn’t aware of the details. Send them the following items and ask them to keep it safe and protected, but readily available for access:
- Your ATM pins
- Your insurance policy numbers and limits
- Your credit card pin and limit
These are the most basic details that your family MUST be aware of. Telling them your complete financial profile, with online credentials would be even better. This knowledge will not be directly used by them in most cases, but will be of indirect help. For example you met with an accident 3000 kms away from your home, but your friends are with you. Your family can intimate some of these details to your friends, who can then help you better.
6. Tell your family about your trip plans and keep them updated
Many of us, including me, keep our families in the dark about our long trips. We feel that they’ll get tense thinking about us over the days and weeks, and we are right to a certain extent. However, nothing can be worse than your family getting a phone call in the middle of the night, telling then their son is admitted in a hospital at Bangalore, when he lives a 1000 kms away in Mumbai.
Tell your family that you are doing everything you can to be safe. Tell them your rough plan, places you’ll stay, a general idea. Call them once a day to update on your progress. This knowledge will be helpful in the case of an unfortunate incident, as your family will already have a slight idea of your whereabouts. Yes it is exciting to give your family surprises, but definitely not of the sad kind.
This knowledge is also important because in critical situations, no one takes the responsibility. For any important decision to be made in case of an emergency, most hospitals and police require a blood relation. The presence of your family members around you as soon as possible will expedite your treatment, and also all the legal and financial formalities that are required to be done.
7. Always carry your company ID card
If you work in a company, especially a multinational, always carry your company ID card. I can’t even begin to tell you how helpful IGATE’s admin and HR department has been regarding my friend’s accident. It was ONLY because of the company ID card that we got to know about the mishap in the first place. IGATE’s admin guys coordinated with us and family, and informed all the relevant parties as soon as possible. Almost all big companies have offices all over the country, which is again helpful in case of an accident while you are on a long trip, since the company’s different geographical departments can coordinate among themselves to help you out in the best way possible.
Most corporates have group insurance policies, which are also extremely helpful in such cases. Since these policies are mostly mandatory, you always have some level of health insurance if you work in a company. If optional, choose the higher value plan, even if you have to pay that little bit extra. The IGATE guys also helped immensely in making sure the insurance was approved quickly.
Do keep in mind that group insurance policy is nice to have, but not a replacement for your individual insurance. Go for both. .
8. Wear dog tags
If you have a high risk lifestyle, like a motorcycle traveller or hitch-hiker, always wear military style dog tags on your long trips. These tags have high quality, embossed information, that is readily available for anyone to capture. I have the following information on my set of tags:
- Blood group
- Date of birth
- Father’s, mother’s and sister’s contact number
- Warning about my contact lenses
Your wallet or mobile may be stolen, but no one will remove a simple looking 500 buck tag from around your neck. This information can then be used by police or hospital staff to contact the right people, and help you out in the best and fastest way possible. Check out ITAGS website to get good quality, tried and tested dog tags in India.
9. Always keep family contact information in phone and wallet
Even though your phone and wallet might not last long with you if you are in a crash alone, it is still always a good idea to keep your family contact information in your phone and the wallet. You can write down your emergency contact numbers on a piece of paper, and keep them somewhere visible in the wallet. In your phone, you’ll obviously have your family contact numbers, but the trick here is to make them highly visible.
Write your contacts like A_FATHER or A_MOTHER etc.. The A_ is to make sure the contacts appear in the beginning of the list, and all caps approach to make them stand out and be visible. It’s always for the best that your situation is broadcast to as many family members and friends as possible, so that the closest ones can be there to help you out as quick as they can. Do make sure that you phone doesn’t have a locking pattern/PIN/fingerprint access, which will make it impossible for others to access the emergency contact info.
It might sound like this article is purely Armageddon type, hopelessly negative and cynically critical of India, but you have to be prepared for the worst possible thing you can imagine. If you check the structure, the items are only about 2 things:
- Having enough money
- Informing your near and dear ones
I haven’t written anything about your vehicle insurance and other stuff, because that isn’t important for your life. Money and possessions may come and go, but a life is irreplaceable. Hopefully you found something useful in this post, and would implement these guidelines in your life. It’s very easy to ignore these suggestions, very easy to think nothing bad will ever happen to you, but the problem is that if it does, you’ll be sleeping peacefully in a bed somewhere, drugged and hallucinating, but your family and friends will be tense, helpless, and running frantically to find out the information that you should have told them long long back in the first place.
Be safe. If you have any suggestions, I would love to see them in the comments.