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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 Jessica Bown

Published: 02 September 2021

a car scraping against a bollard

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How do I make a car insurance claim? 

If you need to make a car insurance claim, you should contact your insurance provider as soon as possible. The easiest way to do this is generally by phone, although you may also be able to start the car insurance claim process by filling in an online form.

To increase your chances of a speedy payout after a road accident, you should:

1: Get details from the other driver – or drivers if there are more than two cars involved. You will need:

  • Their full name
  • Their address
  • Their car registration number
  • Their telephone number
  • Their insurance details

2: Take photographs of the damage to the vehicles, as well as the circumstances of the incident

3: Ask any other motorists or pedestrians who saw the crash if they can act as independent witnesses 

If anyone is injured in the crash, you’ll need to call an ambulance and notify the police. The police will also be needed to provide a crime reference number if your car is stolen or damaged while parked. 

What information do I need to make a claim? 

When claiming on your car insurance policy, you’ll need certain information to hand, including:

  • Your policy number
  • Your personal details
  • The details of any other parties involved (and their vehicles)
  • The date, time, and location of the incident
  • A crime reference number (if applicable)

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

If you’re involved in a car accident, you should:

1) 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.

2) Check for injuries: Once the car is stationary check for any injuries, making a note if there aren’t in case the other party involved tries to claim for an injury later on.

3) Call emergency services: If anyone is injured, whether minor or major, you should call an ambulance. If the road is blocked as a result of the accident, an involved party leaves the scene before sharing details, or you suspect the driver deliberately caused the crash or was under the influence, you should also 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.

4) Exchange contact details: If you’re involved in a car accident, you’re legally required to leave your contact details with anyone affected – even if they weren’t present at the time, for example because their car was parked. 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

5) Gather evidence at the scene: Take photos of any damage if possible, and note down:

  • The make, model and appearance of all vehicles involved
  • The date and time of the accident
  • The location/address of the accident
  • The weather, lighting conditions, and the state of the road
  • Details of all damage caused
  • Details of any injuries caused

What if I’m not at fault? 

You should still contact your car insurance provider if you are involved in an accident that is 100% another driver’s fault. This is because you have a duty to report all road accidents involving your car to your insurer, whether they are your fault or not. 

The cost of any repairs needed to your car – or any medical treatment you require – should be covered by the other driver’s insurer. However, you may need to make a claim via your insurer if this is not possible – for example, because the other driver is not insured.

Your cover could also be invalidated if your insurer discovers you failed to notify it about an accident.

What if the other party is uninsured?

If the driver who hits you is uninsured, it’s important to let the police know, as well as your insurer. If you have fully comprehensive car insurance, your insurer should compensate you for the damage caused. 

However, you’ll still need to pay the policy excess unless you have ‘uninsured driver cover’ that covers your excess and protects your no-claims bonus.

If you don’t have comprehensive cover, your best chance of receiving compensation is to put in a claim with the Motor Insurance Bureau

What if someone hits my car or property when 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. It’s against the law not to, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean everyone does.

If they have left details, then the car insurance claim process is the same as after any car accident. If they haven’t, ways to track down the guilty party include:

  • Seeking out CCTV footage of the incident
  • Asking people who live or work nearby if they witnessed it

You should also take photos of the damage done – on a smartphone ideally, as these will record the date, time, and location – before contacting your insurer, either to report the damage or to make a formal claim.

What if my car is written off?

If your car is severely damaged in an accident, or is very old and therefore of low value, your insurer may decide it is not worth paying to repair it and offer to pay you the car’s market value instead. This is known as a total loss claim or an insurance write off.

If you believe the amount offered is too low, you can negotiate to receive a higher amount, but to do so you’ll need to provide proof, such as independent valuations and advertisements showing similar vehicles for sale for a higher price. 

If you prefer to keep the vehicle, you may also be able to negotiate to do this in return for accepting a lower payout. 

Do I have to claim if I’m in an accident? 

You don’t have to make a car insurance claim after an accident. If, for example, the damage is minor and will cost less to repair than the excess you have to pay towards any claim, you’ll be better off preserving your no-claims bonus and taking care of it on your own. 

However, you’ll still have to inform your insurer that the accident occurred.

How do claims affect my car insurance policy? 

Most insurers reward drivers who avoid making claims with no claims discounts that can slash the cost of annual premiums by 50% or more. 

Number of years no claims

Average annual premiums

5 or above

£364.35

4

£599.20

3

£654.51

2

£774.64

1

£967.32

0

£1,342.15

*Based on fully comprehensive car insurance policies with one driver holding a full UK driver's licence. MoneySuperMarket data collected between January and June 2021, accurate as of August 2021.

 

How long after a car accident can you claim?

Insurers will only generally pay out on claims that are made within a certain timeframe, which can be anything from a day to a few weeks. So it’s best to report accidents to your insurer within 24 hours, especially if you want your claim settled as soon as possible.

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

Most insurers will ask you to disclose details of any road accidents you’ve been involved in over the previous five years, even if you weren’t at fault. Being in an accident is likely to affect your car insurance premiums for five years as a result.

How long does a car insurance claim take to settle?

How long it takes for a car insurance claim to be paid out depends on 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. 

If it’s straightforward, you could receive your money in a matter of weeks; if not, it could take a year or more. 

Why would my car insurance claim be delayed?

Your car insurance claim may take longer to be processed (or be rejected completely) if:

  • You don’t communicate with your insurer immediately after the incident 
  • You miss medical appointments or vehicle evaluations organised by your insurer
  • You request a certain mechanic or bodyshop – especially if it’s not approved by your insurer
  • You are unable to pay the policy excess
  • You disagree with your insurer about the cover offered by your policy

Why would my car insurance claim be rejected?

Common reasons insurers reject claims include:

  • Inaccuracies: Such as failing to disclose key information such as vehicle modifications, driving history, occupation, address, or even the amount you’ll be driving
  • Negligence: For example, if your vehicle was unroadworthy at the time of the claim
  • Out-of-date documentation: You will struggle to make a claim if your road tax or MOT were out of date or your driving licence wasn’t valid at the time of the crash

How do I contest a rejected claim?

You can contest a rejected claim by contacting your insurer’s complaints department, either by phone, post or email. Just remember to check your policy wording before starting a car insurance claim dispute process.

The best approach is usually to write a formal complaint letter, in which you can include any information or evidence that supports your case. If the insurer fails to provide a satisfactory response after eight weeks, you can then take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)

Whatever decision the FOS makes is binding for your insurer, which means they’ll have to accept your claim if the ombudsman says so. However, it’s not binding for the consumer, which means you can still take your insurer to court if you want to – even if the ombudsman doesn’t support your claim. 

How do I dispute another party’s claim?

The insurers concerned will usually handle any disputes between you and the other drivers over whose fault an accident is – although you’ll need to supply evidence such as photographs or witness statements to support your point of view. 

The more evidence you can provide, the more likely you are to be found not at fault. That’s why it’s important to note down as many details as possible at the scene.

Is it worth claiming on car insurance?

If the costs involved run into thousands of pounds, it’s almost always worth making a car insurance claim. But in some instances, making a claim for minor damage can leave you out of pocket, and not just when the damage costs less to repair than the excess you have to pay towards your claim.

That’s because making a claim will also affect your car insurance premiums for the next few years. If, for example, you have built up a no claims bonus over five years or more, it may be worth paying the claim to avoid losing this – unless you have no claims bonus protection in place. 

If you drive an older car, you may also choose not to make a claim to avoid it being written off by your insurer, simply because the car itself is not worth a huge amount. 

Compare car insurance quotes

Finding cheaper car insurance is quick and easy 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 can compare policies from a range of providers by overall cost, level of cover, and the excess you’ll need to pay to make a claim. Then all you have to do is pick one and click through to the provider to finalise your purchase.

Rather than automatically choosing the cheapest policy, we recommend looking for one that provides the level of cover you need at the best price. 

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