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Car Insurance Claims

Guide to car insurance claims

We walk you through what to do after an accident and tell you how to make a car insurance claim

By Mehdi Punjwani

Published: 15 January 2020

a car scraping against a bollard

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What can I claim for on a car insurance policy?

By and large, there are four main types of claim you’d make after a car accident:

  1. Personal injury: Where you or someone else is injured during the incident. If the injured party requires additional treatment or a medical assessment this could delay the overall claims process
  2. Physical damage (to the car): The extent of the damage, the complexity of the repair work required and whether your insurer has a preferred mechanic or body shop can all affect the how long the claims process will take
  3. Total loss: If your car can’t be repaired, or if the cost of repairs is deemed uneconomical by your insurer, this is known as a write-off. If this is the case, the time it takes for the claim to be processes usually depends on how quickly you and your insurer can agree on a settlement figure
  4. Theft: If your car is stolen, your insurer will conduct an investigation once you’ve reported it to the police – so the time it takes to process the claim will generally depend on how long the investigation lasts

What are non-fault and at-fault car insurance claims?

Insurers categorise claims in two ways: non-fault and at-fault claims. These can affect how much you pay for car insurance in the future.

  • Non-fault claims: A claim will be classed as non-fault (relating to you) if the liability or blame lies entirely with the other party involved in the accident – and your insurer is able to claim back the whole cost of the claim from this party
  • At-fault claims: If the accident is entirely your fault, it is classed as an at-fault claim – but it will also be an at-fault claim if the other party is at fault and your insurer can’t find them, or if they can’t recoup 100% of the cost from the at-fault party

How long does it take to process a car insurance claim?

It’s hard to estimate exactly how long it takes to process a car insurance claim and when you’ll get your compensation, as there are different factors involved that can affect the process. This includes the type of claim you’re making, whether you were injured and how severe the injuries are, and whether you or any other parties involved admits fault.

What can cause a car insurance claim to be delayed?

Your car insurance claim may take longer to be processed as a result of the following:

  • If you don’t communicate with your insurer immediately after telling the police, or whenever you need to during the process. This could even invalidate your claim, so be sure to contact your insurer as soon as possible and keep them filled in
  • Similar to the above, if you miss medical appointments or vehicle evaluations organised by your insurer your claim may be delayed or voided entirely
  • If you request a certain mechanic or bodyshop – especially if it’s not approved by your insurer
  • If your insurer requests the excess fee up front and you aren’t able to pay it
  • If you disagree with your insurer about the extent to which your policy covers you

How long do I have to report a car accident to my insurance company?

As a general rule of thumb you should report the accident to your insurer within 24 hours, especially if you want the claim settled as soon as possible. Most insurers have their own rules – anywhere from a day to a few weeks.

How long does a car insurance claim stay on your insurance record?

Most insurers will ask you to disclose details of any vehicle accidents – not just cars, but vans, trucks and motorcycles too – you’ve been involved in over the previous five years, even if you weren’t at fault.

What if I don’t disclose details of previous car accidents to my insurer?

If you don’t tell your insurer about any accidents you’ve had in the last five years – or during the time period they ask for – then you risk having our policy invalidated, which means you won’t be able to claim.

You should be aware that insurers usually cross-reference  several different vehicle databases, so they’ll probably find out about it. This is why you must be honest when you take out an insurance policy, as there’s no point in paying your premiums if you can’t use the cover you’ve bought.

Why might my car insurance claim be rejected?

Insurers may reject your claim or invalidate your policy for a number of reasons, including:

  • Lying: Failing to disclose or being dishonest about key information on your vehicle and any modifications, driving history, occupation, address, or even the amount you’ll be driving is likely to invalidate your policy
  • Not reading or understanding your policy: Likewise if you haven’t carefully read your policy documents you may miss certain clauses that specify conditions under which you can or cannot claim. This is why you should always thoroughly read your policy documents and ask your insurer to clarify points you don’t understand to be sure you’ve got the right cover in place when you need it
  • Using out-of-date or invalid documentation: If your road tax or MOT documents are out of date or your driving licence isn’t valid, or any documentation like a disabled badge, are out of date, it will almost certainly mean you can’t claim on your policy

How do I contest a rejected claim?

You can contest a rejected claim by contacting your insurer’s complaints department, usually either by phone, post or email, and go through the standard procedure.

If they still won’t settle your claim you can talk to the Financial Ombudsman Service – either online or over the phone. This will have to be done within six months of reaching a claim stalemate .

Whatever decision the Financial Ombudsman Service makes is binding for your insurer – which means they’ll have to accept your claim if the ombudsman says so. However it won’t be binding for the consumer, which means if the ombudsman doesn’t support your claim you’ll be able to take your insurer to court.

You should only take these actions if you’re sure your insurer is acting unfairly – so before you do, carefully review your policy documents to ensure your claim is valid and you haven’t broken any terms they’ve set out.

How do I make a car insurance claim?

To make a car insurance claim, you’ll first need to notify the police. They’ll give you a crime reference number that you’ll then need to give your insurer.

You usually have to call your insurer to make a claim, though you may also be able to claim online or by filling out a form and sending it by post.

What information do I need to make a car insurance claim?

If you’re claiming on your car insurance policy, you’ll need to have certain documents and information to hand to speed up the process, including:

  • Your policy number
  • The registration number of the car(s) involved
  • The details of the party or parties involved, including any other drivers’ names, addresses, contact information and insurance details

What if I want to dispute another party’s claim?

If you’re involved in an accident and the other party believes it was your fault but you disagree, then your respective insurers should resolve the dispute. However you’ll need to supply evidence such as photographs or witness statements to support your claim.

Do I have to claim on my car insurance policy if I’m in an accident?

If you’re involved in a car accident you don’t have to make a claim – in fact in some cases it’s better if you don’t. For example if the damage is minor and it’ll cost less to pay for repairs yourself than it would to pay the excess fee, you’ll be better off preserving your no-claims bonus and taking care of it on your own.

Even if you aren’t claiming, you will still have to inform your insurer that you were in an accident.

What should I do if I’m in a car accident?

If you’re involved in a car accident, you should always follow these steps immediately afterwards:

Stop the car as soon as possible: No matter how minor the accident, you have to stop, turn off your engine and switch the hazard lights on – it’s against the law not to do so.

Check for injuries: Once the car is stationary check yourself and your passengers for any injuries, making a note if there are or if there aren’t – this is important in case the other party involved tries to claim for an injury later on.

Call emergency services: If anyone is injured, whether minor or major, you should call the ambulance. Additionally if the road is blocked as a result of the accident, or if an involved party leaves the scene before sharing details, or if you suspect the driver deliberately caused the crash or was under the influence, you should call the police. If it’s just a minor accident, you should call the police within 24 hours – but use the non-emergency number 101.

Exchange contact details: If you’re involved in a car accident you’re legally required to leave your contact details with anyone who was affected – even if they weren’t present at the time. For example if you hit a parked car or someone’s property, you’ll need to leave your details where the owner can find them. You should also make sure you get the contact details of anyone else involved in the accident – the key information you need is:

  • The registration number of all vehicles involved
  • The registered owner of the vehicles involved
  • The name, address and contact number of all people involved
  • The car insurance details of all people involved
  • The names of any passengers
  • The names and contact details of any witnesses

Gather evidence of the scene. To support your car insurance claim you should gather evidence of what happened – take photos of any damage if possible. Try and make note of the following:

  • The make, model and appearance of all vehicles involved
  • The date and time of the accident
  • The location/address of the accident
  • Context for the accident, such as weather, lighting conditions and the state of the road
  • A rundown of all damage caused to any vehicles and property
  • A rundown of any injuries caused to drivers, passengers and pedestrians

What if the other party is uninsured?

If the driver who hits you is uninsured, it’s doubly important to let the police know. If you have a comprehensive insurance policy in place your insurer should be able to compensate you for damage. However you’ll still need to pay an excess fee unless you have ‘uninsured driver cover’ – this covers your excess as well as preserving your no-claims bonus.

In the case that you don’t have comprehensive cover, you might be able to get compensation back from the Motor Insurance Bureau. You can claim through their website, and they’ll investigate the issue to work out what compensation is owed and to whom.  

What if someone hits my car or property while I’m away?

If someone hits your parked car or property while you’re not there, your next step will depend on whether they left details. As mentioned above you’re legally required to leave a note with your contact and insurance information, but not all do – especially if they believe they can get away with it.

If they have left their details then you’d continue like it was any car accident – but if they haven’t it’s time to turn detective. You should look for possible witnesses or CCTV footage to show what happened, or to see the licence plate of the vehicle involved.

You should also take photos of the damage done to your vehicle or property – on a smartphone ideally, as these will record the date, time and location.

Afterwards you will need to contact your insurer, either to inform them of the damage or, if you want or need, to make a claim.

Compare car insurance policies

Finding cheaper car insurance is quick and easy when you compare policies with MoneySuperMarket. Just tell us a bit about yourself, your driving history and the car you want to insure, and we’ll put together a list of quotes tailored to meet your needs.

You’ll be able to compare policies from a range of providers by the overall cost, the level of cover you’ll get and the excess fee you’ll need to pay to make a claim. Once you’ve found the right policy, just click through to the provider to finalise your purchase.

As with all types of insurance, the cheapest available policy won’t always be the best suited to you. We recommend aiming for a balance between the coverage offered and the price you’ll pay, to ensure you don’t overpay for cover or end up underinsured.

How do car insurance claims work?

When you’re involved in a car accident or collision, you use your car insurance policy to claim back most costs incurred as a result of the incident. This means telling your insurer exactly what happened, collecting information about the event and getting the contact and insurance details of anyone else involved.

What happens when you make a car insurance claim?

When you report the accident, you will be asked if you wish to make a claim on your car insurance. If you say yes, your provider will send you a claim form that needs to be completed and returned along with any supporting evidence. It’s a wise idea to take a copy of the form before you send it back, in case anything gets lost along the way.

You should expect to wait a while before you hear back about your insurance claim. Even if it’s clear which driver was at fault, it’s rarely a straightforward process.

If your car was damaged, a claims assessor will review your vehicle and estimate the repair costs. You’ll be given a list of approved garages that can repair the car. Don’t repair your car before this point, or your insurer may refuse to pay out and you could lose any entitlement you may have to a courtesy car.

If your vehicle is written off, your car insurance claim will pay out a sum equal to its value before it was damaged. This amount could be less than you were expecting, particularly if it’s a new car that has depreciated dramatically. If this concerns you, you should learn more about how GAP insurance can prevent this.

If you think the valuation is unfair, you can appeal to your insurer. If you’re unhappy with the outcome of the appeal, you should take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Will claiming on my car insurance policy affect my premiums?

Whether it’s recorded as at-fault or non-fault, your premiums will still almost certainly be affected if you make a claim. This is because if you’ve been involved in an accident – and even if it wasn’t your fault insurers will see you as a higher risk.

However, as you’d expect, a non-fault claim won’t raise your premiums as much as an at-fault claim.