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How to make a car insurance claim

When you take out any insurance policy, you hope you’ll never need to use it. But, if the worst does happen, you’ll want to get your claim in as soon as possible. To help, we’ve created this guide to explain the car insurance claiming process.

Your step by step guide to making a car insurance claim

  1. Pull over, where it’s safe to stop. If anyone at the scene is injured, call an ambulance. Walk around your car and assess the damage. You may also want to take a look at any damage to the other car, or cars, involved. 
  2. You’ll have to notify the police, whether you’ve had a minor or major car accident. If it’s minor, you can ring 101 within 24 hours, but, if it’s a major accident, call 999 straight away. They may need to close the road temporarily to prevent any additional accidents.
  3. It’s important you tell the police if the other driver leaves the scene, as they’ve broken the law. If you have their car registration – even if it’s just part of it – or any other details, make sure you pass these on.
  4. You must always exchange your details with the other people involved, even if they’re not present. If you hit a parked car in a residential street, try knocking on a few doors to try to find the owner, and, if all else fails, leave your details on a note on the windscreen. The details you should give and get from the other party in an accident are: full name, address, mobile and home numbers, car registration number and the name of the car insurer. At this point, try not to apologise or admit fault, as you may not be legally liable, and this may affect your insurer’s ability to act on your behalf.
  5. You need to gather evidence for your insurer, but this doesn’t mean you have to pick debris up from the road. Take as many photos as you can of the scene, the vehicles and the location, if it’s safe to do so. You could ask any witnesses for their contact details, in case you need them to verify what happened to your insurer, or the police later. The other driver might say they’re at fault and later deny it, so having this evidence could make a big difference. This is one of the reasons why dash cams are becoming much more popular.
  6. In the minutes after any accident, you may well be in shock, but write down what’s happened and, if you weren’t able to take photos, do a quick sketch. You’ll have to be able to tell your insurer the time the accident happened, describe the other vehicles, what damage was done and what the weather conditions were like.
  7. After you’ve left the scene, you should call your insurer and, ideally, have your car insurance documents handy, as they’ll have your policy number and the claims contact number you should ring. This can speed up the process, but, even if you can’t locate your policy number, most insurers should be able to help if you provide your vehicle registration number. Ideally, you should tell your insurer what’s happened within 24 hours.
  8. You need to tell your insurer exactly what happened, to the best of your knowledge, as providing accurate and complete information upfront will make your claim quicker and easier to process.
  9. Try to be patient. It can take several weeks for a claim to be processed, especially if neither side is taking responsibility. Your insurer will assess the damage to your vehicle when you first report the incident. If it is a write off or the damage was extensive, they may appoint a motor engineer to confirm what needs to be done. If your car is fit to be repaired, the insurer will then appoint an approved repairer for you.
  10. If you make a claim, you will have to pay your excess, but, if the other driver was to blame, your insurer may be able to recover the cost of the repairs, and you will also be able to reclaim the cost of your excess.

Please note the above applies if you’ve got comprehensive insurance. With third party insurance, if you were to blame, you’d have to pay for all repairs to your own vehicle and wouldn’t be paid compensation if you were injured.

To claim or not to claim

If the damage from the accident was minor, you may decide you don’t want to claim on your insurance. This may be because you’d lose your no claims discount, or the amount received would only be small, once you’d paid your excess. However, if you’re not at fault and the insurer is able to recover all costs, you wouldn’t lose your no claims discount, so you might want to go ahead and claim.

Whatever you decide, you’re legally required to inform your insurer that there’s been an accident, but, if you don’t want to lose your no claims discount, clearly state you don’t want to make a claim – and that you’re just sharing the information for their records.

If you do claim and lose your no claims discount because the accident was your fault, you’ll find that, when it’s time to renew, your premium price has gone up. However, if you shop around, you may be able to find a cheaper deal.

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