If you are properly covered, making a claim on your car insurance should be straightforward.
But you’ll be able to get a payout much more quickly and without any hassle if you can provide your insurer with all the details of your claim – for example, what happened and who was involved in an accident – as swiftly and clearly as possible.
Bear in mind that if you are claiming from someone else’s insurance, you could experience delays due to the extra layers of paperwork, and disputes over blame.
Follow this guide to ensure those delays are kept to a minimum.
What to do if you’re in an accident
Perhaps the most common reason for claiming on your car insurance is if you’re involved in some sort of collision. If this happens to you and you are not seriously hurt, the first thing to worry about is making the scene of the accident safe. Turn on hazard warning lights, and ensure that other traffic is aware of what has happened. You should call for an ambulance or police if anyone is injured or the collision has created a blockage.
You should also inform the police immediately if anyone involved has driven away – it is an offence not to stop at the scene of an accident.
Once safety concerns have been addressed, you can think about insurance:
- Don’t admit liability or offer to pay compensation: you may not be thinking clearly, and there could be other factors that you are not aware of that contributed to the accident.If you take the blame, it could affect any insurance payout you’re entitled to.
- Make a note of the registrations of the vehicles involved.
- Take the names and contact details of the other drivers, passengers and other witnesses. Drivers are obliged to share this information, as well as their insurance details (such as the name of their insurer).
- Try to sketch out what happened in the accident.
- Take photographs of the aftermath if possible – it is always a good idea to carry a camera (perhaps a disposable one) in your car, or use your mobile phone if that has an in-built camera.
- And make a note of your location, including road or street names, and the nearest house our business numbers. Write down any other information that could be relevant such as road or weather conditions, plus time of day.
Other types of claim
If you need to make a claim for theft, or if your vehicle has been damaged or driven into while it is parked, it is again useful to collect as much information – such as the location, and details of any potential witnesses – as possible to pass on to your insurer. Also keep a record of any dealings with the police: in cases of theft or vandalism, for example, you will be given a crime reference number.
Dealing with your insurer
Following an accident, you should contact your insurer as soon as possible to report the matter – this applies whether you are planning to make a claim or not.
You should pass on all the details you took from the scene of the accident. If you do want to make a claim, your insurer will ask for an assessor to work out the extent of the damage and what it will cost to repair.
This will usually involve you taking the vehicle to a local garage approved by your provider. If you simply take your car to a garage of your own choice for repairs, you are very unlikely to then be able to claim the costs back from your insurer. You will have to pay the excess on any claim you make on your own insurance – but if you are claiming off another driver for an accident that was their fault, you won’t have to pay the excess.
You may get a courtesy car while your own vehicle is being repaired – check your policy terms and conditions to find out. If your car has been written off or stolen, however, a courtesy vehicle is not normally available.
What if your car is written off?
If your insurer’s assessor decides that the cost of repairing your car is too high in relation to its value, the company will declare it a write-off and offer you a cash sum, less any excess in accordance with your comprehensive policy. To work out whether this sum is fair, you should research the value of cars as similar as possible to yours (in model type and age, for example) on the open market.
Bear in mind, however, that forecourt prices may include some negotiating room – so don’t expect to get the full amount as a settlement. If you have made any changes to your car that enhance its value, tell your insurer and supply receipts or records of the work done.
It may be, however, that modifications you have made are deemed not to have added to the car’s worth (and may even have reduced it). If you can’t agree a fair figure for a write-off, you can go to the Financial Ombudsman Service for help in negotiating a settlement. You can also appeal to the ombudsman if you’re unhappy with any other aspect of your insurer’s treatment of your claim.
Claiming after being hit by an uninsured driver
If you are involved in an accident with a vehicle that turns out to be uninsured, you will be able to claim from your own provider if you are comprehensively covered. But this will mean a loss of your no-claims bonus (unless you policy specifically waives this in cases involving uninsured drivers) and you’ll have to pay your normal excess. If you don’t have comprehensive cover, you may be able to make a claim from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau for compensation relating to personal injuries and other losses. Any payments from the MIB are subject to a £300 excess.