Making an insurance claim
Being in a road accident is already a stressful enough experience without having to go through the hassle of making an insurance claim.
It’s just one of those things that has to be done and although there are some factors you can’t control, there are things you can do to help make the process as stress-free as possible.
In this guide we’ll cover what to do if you’re involved in a car accident, how to get in touch with your insurer afterwards and ways you can help speed up the claims process.
What to do if you’re in an accident
The first thing to do after an accident is to make sure that yourself and any others involved are not injured or in any danger.
Once any safety concerns have been dealt with, it’s time to focus your attention on gathering details and evidence from the crash.
To help make the claim process go as smoothly as possible, make sure that you:
- Swap names and contact details with any other parties (this includes passengers, witnesses, or anyone whose property was damaged)
- Write down the registration number of all vehicles involved
- Take photos of the scene, any damage to either vehicle and anything else that may help with an investigation, e.g. skid marks on the road
- Make a note of where the accident happened, the time and any other useful information, like weather conditions or unclear road markings
- Ask the other motorist for their insurance details.
Whatever you do, don’t take the blame or offer to pay for any damage – this can be taken as a sign of liability and could affect your claim.
If you suspect that anyone involved is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, if they flee the scene without leaving their contact information, or if another criminal offence has been committed, you must notify the police immediately and not leave until they arrive at the scene.
Even if it was only a tiny bump and no one was hurt, the police need to know about any road traffic incidents so you must report it to them within the first 24 hours following the accident, regardless of its scale.
It’s 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.
Letting your insurer know
Just like the police, your insurer must also be told that you’ve been 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 do not wish to make a claim on your insurance policy (it’s also worth sending a letter or email so that you have it in writing).
If you do want to claim, make sure that you have your policy documents and all of the information about the accident to hand before you phone your insurer.
They will ask you questions about what happened so make sure you’re prepared in case you forget any important details.
You should get in touch with your insurer within 24 hours of the accident and when you do, make sure you tell the complete truth – if you’re found to be lying at any point, you could be charged with insurance fraud.
The same steps apply if you’re making an insurance claim for something other than an accident, e.g. if your vehicle has been vandalised or stolen.
Again, it’s a good idea to gather as much information as possible and if you’re also in touch with the police, make sure you document any correspondence plus your crime reference number, as this could help your insurer with your claim.
What happens next?
Your insurer will send you a claims form to complete which you should send back with any supporting evidence or witness statements.
Once that’s been done, there’s not much you can do but wait while your insurer handles the claims process.
If your vehicle is damaged, it will need to be assessed and the repair cost agreed with your insurer before any work can be carried out.
Usually, your insurer will provide a list of approved garages, so make sure you don’t attempt any repairs before you’ve spoken to your insurer, as they won’t pay if the garage has not been approved.
It’s standard procedure for the insurer to pay the garage directly so wait until you’ve discussed reimbursement before making any payments.
In the unlikely scenario that you’re hit by an uninsured driver, you can claim on your own insurance as long as it’s a comprehensive policy.
If not, you can try claiming through the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB), an organisation that was set up over 60 years ago specifically to help compensate those hit by uninsured drivers.
When not to claim on your insurance
Insurers will take into account when a claim has been made and your premium could go up when it’s time to renew your car insurance, regardless of whether you claimed on your own or someone else’s insurance.
It may not go up by much but it’s something to factor in when deciding whether to make a claim or not; if the claim is small, there’s a chance it would be cheaper not to claim at all.
It’s also a good idea to check your policy’s excess before you contact your insurer. If the excess is around the same amount as your claim, it’s worth considering not claiming as you risk losing your No Claims Bonus.
Regardless of whether or not you claim, you will still need to inform your insurer about any accident, no matter how small.