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What is personal accident cover and do I need it?

If you're injured or you die in a car accident, you could get support for you or your loved ones. This is where personal accident cover, or personal injury cover, plays a role.

Road accidents can be traumatic. But while vehicles can be repaired or replaced, recovering from the physical effects of a crash could be much harder.

Here’s our rundown of personal accident cover, what it covers, and how to ensure it’s the right policy for you. 

A driver has hurt his neck after a car accident


What is personal accident cover? 

Personal accident insurance pays out if you suffer a serious injury or die as a result of a car accident. It can also cover you if you become totally and permanently disabled.

Personal injury insurance policies usually pay a fixed amount of money for specific injuries. Depending on the level of cover, according to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

For example, it might pay £100,000 for the death of a policyholder or £10,000 for losing a limb. The policy document should state the level of cover provided for different injuries.

If the accident isn’t your fault, the other driver’s insurer should pay out for any personal injury claims. If it's your fault, then you need to claim on your own policy – as long as you have it.


What does personal accident insurance cover?

The type of accident covered would depend upon the insurer. You should always check the specific wording in the policy. Claims can normally be made for the following reasons:

  • Death
  • Total disablement
  • Permanent or total loss of sight in 1 or both eyes
  • Permanent or total loss of hearing in 1 or both ears
  • Permanent loss of any limb above the wrist or ankle
  • Permanent loss of use of any limb above the wrist or ankle

Do I need personal accident cover?

It depends on your circumstances including how much you can afford, the cover you already have in place and attitude to risk. Most importantly, you need to establish how you or your family would be affected should you suffer a severe injury.

Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Have you got enough savings if you’re out of work for an extended period? 
  • Do you have any income protection policies that may kick in?
  • Should you not survive the accident, do you have adequate life insurance? 
  • The amount of cover you need depends upon your financial circumstances such as your regular income and any outgoings.
  • It’s also worth checking if you already have this cover if you have a life insurance policy. 
  • What doesn’t personal accident insurance cover against?

There are exclusions with any policy so it’s important to check the terms and conditions carefully. For example, don’t expect everyone travelling in the car to be automatically covered by the policy.

Often these policies stipulate exactly who should receive a payment. Often this can be the driver and their partner.

Other exclusions may also apply. For example, if you’re injured while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs then you won’t receive any money.

Similarly, it might not pay out if people weren’t wearing seat belts, taking part in a race or rally, or if the accident was self-inflicted.


Personal accident cover small print

If you have decided a personal accident policy is right for you, make sure you pay particular attention to the small print of the policy. This is so you know exactly what you're getting. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What’s covered?
  • What’s excluded? 
  • Does the cover have any limits?
  • Are any other family members included on the policy?
  • Where is the policy is valid? - It may just be in the UK or you could be covered out of the country.

Do I get personal accident cover with my car insurance?

You may have personal accident cover included with your car insurance,  but it depends on the policy and your insurer.

Some comprehensive car insurance policies don’t include personal accident protection, some offer it as a bolt-on. Others provide relatively modest sums of £5,000 for the policyholder and partner as standard.

Unfortunately, those sums may not go very far, especially if you need ongoing treatment.

That’s why you can pay extra to secure a higher sum – maybe as much as £100,000 - should the worst happen.

Such protection is less likely to be offered if you only have third party – or third party, fire and theft – cover, so that’s worth bearing in mind. 

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How much does personal accident cover cost?

You can buy personal accident cover as a standalone policy or it may come as part of an existing policy, such as your car insurance. 

The cost depends upon a lot of different factors. These can include your age, lifestyle, profession, and address. 

It’s important to shop around and to compare prices. Make sure you’re not only choosing the most appropriate policy for you but that it’s at the best price possible.


How do I make a personal accident insurance claim?

If you’re hurt then seek medical treatment immediately. This can be calling an ambulance or speaking to police at the scene of the crash.

Going to the hospital – or visiting your doctor – creates a paper trail of medical documents that could help support your claim.

Keep any travel receipts or proof of other expenses you incur as you may have to show these for proof at a later stage.

You also need to contact your insurer as soon as you can to report the accident and start the claims procedure.

How quickly you get paid out is down to the individual insurer – and the specific circumstances of the accident.

If you’re unhappy with your insurer’s response after 8 weeks, you can always take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). This organisation investigates many complaints every year.

But if you're provided with a 'final decision' letter from your insurer you can go straight to the FOS. You have 6 months to contact the FOS after receipt of your letter.