Making an insurance claim
In the aftermath of an accident, it can be difficult to know what to do first. Here, we take a look at what you should do and how making a car insurance claim can affect your premiums.
What are my obligations?
Firstly, let’s just clear up the ‘letter of the law’ – if you have been involved in a road traffic collision, you have several duties to comply with by law:
- Stop your vehicle and remain at the scene for a reasonable time
- Report the collision within a reasonable time, either to police via 101 or the other party involved if they are present.
- Exchange details with the other party, regardless of where you feel fault lies. The details you must exchange are:
- Vehicle registration number
- Details of your vehicle owner (if you do not own the vehicle you are driving).
- In the case of injury, produce a valid certificate of insurance or security to the injured person or their representative
Failing to comply with any one of the above duties may render you liable to prosecution for a number of Road Traffic Offences.
Read more in our blog “What to do after an accident“
What can I claim for?
What you can claim for will depend on the level of cover you have:
- Third party only — your policy will only compensate third parties. In other words, it will cover the cost of injury and damage done to other people and their property. You won’t be able to claim compensation to repair or replace your car.
- Third party, fire and theft — this type of policy also compensates third parties but you can also make a claim if your car is stolen or damaged by fire.
- Comprehensive — as well as covering third parties, you can claim for damage done to your car. If your policy includes personal injury insurance, you can also claim compensation if you’re hurt.
What should I do after an accident?
If someone’s been injured or the accident is serious, you should always contact the appropriate emergency service.
After that, you should gather as much information as you can about the accident and everyone involved, you can do this by:
- Swapping names and contact details with anyone else involved. This includes other drivers, passengers, witnesses and anyone whose property was damaged.
- Write down the registration numbers of all the vehicles involved. It’s also a good idea to take a picture of the registration plate and vehicle together.
- Make a note of the time and date of the accident. It’s a good idea to add details like weather conditions, speed limits or any comments you have, for example if road markings were unclear.
- Take as many photos of the accident scene as you can, including any skid marks and damaged property.
- Ask the other driver(s) for their insurance details.
Whatever you do, don’t take the blame or offer to pay for any damage. Doing this could be taken as you admitting fault and it could affect the outcome of your claim.
If you think anyone involved is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you should contact the police straight away. Similarly, if anyone tries to leave the scene of an accident, you must notify the police and not leave until they arrive.
You can find more information about the law on road traffic accidents on your local police website or for full details on the latest legislation refer to the Government website.
How do I make a car insurance claim?
You should get in touch with your insurer within 24 hours of the accident and explain what happened. In most cases, your insurer will lead you through the process so it’ll simply be a matter of answering their questions.
If you’re making a car insurance claim for something other than an accident – for example if your car has been stolen or vandalised – you should also contact your insurer as soon as you can. In either of these instances, you’ll also need a crime reference number from the police.
It’s also helpful to have your insurance documents to hand — for example your policy number.
Needless to say, you should be as clear and as honest as you can regardless of the reason for claiming. Missing facts or not mentioning something when asked can invalidate your claim. In a worst case scenario, it could even lead to a charge of insurance fraud.
How long does the car insurance claim process take?
Unfortunately, there’s no set timeline and your car insurance claim will take as long as is necessary. Insurers will need to consider all aspects of the incident, for example:
- The number of parties involved
- Whether anyone was injured and if so, how serious were those injuries
- Whether it’s clear that someone was at fault
- If there is any dispute about what happened
Does filing a claim raise your car insurance premium?
In almost all cases, yes — making a claim will increase your car insurance premium, particularly if an accident was considered your fault (known as an ‘at-fault’ accident).
Even car insurance claims that are not your fault (a ‘non-fault’ accident) could see your premium rise — although not by as much. This is because insurers will consider you a bigger insurance risk regardless of the circumstances around the incident.
Do I have to inform the police about a car accident?
Road traffic collisions fall under two categories:
When damage is caused to anything other than the vehicle or its contents, including another vehicle, property boundaries or street furniture such as lamp posts or street signs, or when injury is caused to anyone other than the driver of the vehicle or any animal not in or on the vehicle. (An animal is defined by law as a horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog.)
It’s also a good idea to keep a log of the police incident number, in case you or your insurer need to refer back to it at a later date.
When damage is only caused to the vehicle involved or injury is limited to the driver involved or any animal carried in or on the vehicle.
Do I need to tell my insurance about an accident?
Just like the police, you should also let your insurer know if you’ve been involved in a road accident, even if you don’t plan on making a claim.
The simplest way to do this is to call and explain what’s happened, making it very clear that you don’t want to make a claim on your insurance policy (it’s also worth sending a letter or email so that you have it in writing).
How long do I have to make a car insurance claim?
If you need to make a claim or report an accident, you should do so as soon as possible. Ideally, this means in the first 24 hours.
However, there’s no set rule about how long you have to make an insurance claim and most insurers simply ask that you file a claim within a ‘reasonable amount of time’.
If your insurer has a condition about timeframes for making a claim, this should be clearly set out in your policy documents.
Is it worth claiming on car insurance for a dent?
Whether you should make a car insurance claim depends on a number of factors — for instance, the cost of repairing the damage, your excess, and the potential impact on your next premium. Here are a couple of examples:
- Your excess is £150.
- Your local garage has quoted £200 to fix the dent.
- Your insurer would only pay £50 towards the repair (£200 less your £150 excess).
- In this example, it’s probably not worth claiming on your insurance as your insurer’s contribution is small. Claiming would also increase your premium and reduce your no claims bonus.
- Your excess is £150.
- Your local garage has quoted £500 to fix the dent.
- Your insurer would pay £350 towards the repair (£500 less your £150 excess).
- In this example, it probably is worth claiming on your insurance as your insurer will be paying for the bulk of your repairs. Of course, if you can afford to cover the cost and you don’t want to affect your no claims bonus, then you might decide to pay for repairs yourself.
Ultimately, whether you choose to claim comes down to your own circumstances and whether you can afford to pay for repairs yourself. You should also consider how claiming will affect your no claims bonus and future premiums.
How long does a claim stay on car insurance in the UK?
The length of time a claim will affect your premium for, will depend on the insurer. Typically, claims made in the last five years will impact what you pay for car insurance.
Can someone claim on my car insurance without me knowing?
It’s highly unlikely that anyone could make a claim on your insurance without you knowing.
If another driver makes a claim against you and contacts your insurer, your insurer will contact you to discuss the matter before taking any action.
Can you appeal a car insurance claim decision?
Yes — if you’re not happy with the way your insurer has handled your claim, you can make a complaint.
In the first instance, you should contact your insurer’s complaints department and explain what the problem is. For example, if your claim was rejected or if you’re unhappy with the way they managed your claim.
If you can’t resolve the issue with your insurer, you can make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
You may also be interested in
- What to do if you’re hit by an uninsured driver
- Who is my car insured with?
- Category S and N vehicle write-offs
- Car insurance excess explained
- Crash for cash scams
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