Car accidents are traumatic experiences that can often leave you in shock. Knowing what to do after an incident – and how to claim on your car insurance – will help you take the correct steps to stay on the right side of the law and make sure your claim is paid.
What to do after a car accident
No matter how small the accident, you must stop – otherwise you’re breaking the law. Turn off your engine, turn your hazard lights on and check yourself and passengers for any injuries.
2. Call the emergency services
If anyone is hurt, you should call an ambulance. You need to call the police if the road is blocked or if someone leaves the scene without sharing their contact details. If you think the other driver is under the influence of drink or drugs, or if you think they caused the accident deliberately, you should also alert the police.
If it’s just a small bump, you should notify the police within 24 hours – but make sure you use the non-emergency 101 number.
3. Exchange contact details
You’re obliged to leave your contact details when you’re involved in a car accident, so make sure you swap details with the other driver. The key information you need for a car insurance claim is:
- Car registration number
- Name, address and telephone number of the other driver
- Their car insurance details
- The names of passengers
- The contact details of any witnesses
You are legally obliged to leave your contact details with anyone affected by the accident, regardless of whether they were at the scene of the incident. For example, if your car hit someone’s property, you would need to leave your details somewhere the property owner can find them.
4. Assess the scene
If you can, take photos of the scene and any damage immediately after the accident. This will help support your car insurance claim.
Make a note of the following:
- The colour, make and model of all vehicles involved
- The date and time of the accident
- The address of the accident
- A description of weather conditions, the state of the road and any street lighting
- A list of damage done to any vehicles and property
- Details of any injuries to drivers, passengers and pedestrians
In the chaos that follows a car accident, it’s not always obvious what caused the crash. Try to avoid taking responsibility for the accident at this point because if it turns out you weren’t to blame, it could complicate the car insurance claims process.
When to contact your car insurer and make a claim
You don’t need to call your insurer from the scene, but you should make sure you call them within 24 hours. That’s because many car insurance providers set limits on the amount of time you have to report an accident.
Before you make a car insurance claim
Before picking up the phone, it’s wise to be prepared for the conversation and have all the information that you need to hand.
You will be asked to explain what happened, so write down a description of the accident before you call your insurer. This will help you to explain the crash clearly and avoid forgetting any important details that could affect your claim.
You must tell the whole truth and give your insurer the full facts. If you’re not honest about what happened, you could be charged with insurance fraud.
Make sure you have your policy documents ready, as this will help you speak to the right person as quickly as possible.
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.
When to avoid making a car insurance claim
If it would cost less to repair your car than to pay the excess on your policy, it probably isn’t worth making a claim on your car insurance. If the repairs are slightly more than your excess, you should consider the impact of losing your no claims discount (NCD) on your renewal quote before deciding what to do.
Even if you decide not to make a claim, you still need to report the accident to your insurer. If you don’t, you could have your cover cancelled.
How car insurance claims affect your policy premium
By claiming on your car insurance you’ll automatically lose all, or a portion, of any NCD that you have accrued (unless you have paid extra to protect your bonus in the event of a claim).
The bonus is often cut by two years, but each insurer has its own approach to this.
Even if your NCD is protected, and even if you decide against making a car insurance claim, your renewal quote could still increase. That’s because once you’ve been involved in one motoring incident, it’s statistically more likely to happen again.
The best way to beat any hikes in insurance premiums following a car insurance claim is to compare deals. Use our car insurance comparison tool to review the best quotes from a number of insurers.