Car insurance claims

Here’s everything to be aware of if you’re considering making a claim on your car insurance

Kim Jones
Kim Jones
Updated 6 January 2023  | 4 mins read
Reviewed by Jasmine Hembury

How to make a claim if you're in an accident

All car accidents can be traumatic, whether it’s a minor bump or something more serious.

Knowing what you need to do to make a claim on your car insurance can at least help ease the stress.

Our handy video guides you through the process. For example, you should:

  1. Let your insurer know within 24 hours what’s happened regardless of who was to blame
  2. You’ll need to provide the names, reg number and contact details of other drivers, passengers and witnesses
  3. Give a crime reference number if the police attended the accident
  4. Take notes about what happened and tell your insurer about damage to anyone's vehicles. Including photographic evidence where possible
  5. Check your paperwork. You may be entitled to a replacement vehicle, legal cover or personal accident cover

After you’ve provided initial details, you'll need to fill in an accident report. Your insurer might ask you to take your car to an approved garage to assess the damage too.

Make sure you pay your excess promptly. Your insurer can’t progress your claim without it, which can delay you getting back on the road.

How long does a car insurance claim take?

It depends on the circumstances.

For example, if the other party accepts fault for the accident, the claim could be settled quickly.

But if there’s dispute over who’s to blame, things can take longer. Your insurer will need to contact others involved in the accident, including witnesses, so it could take many months to be resolved.

Is it worth making a claim on car insurance?

There’s no straightforward yes or no answer here. Generally speaking, if it’ll cost less to claim on your insurance for the repairs to your own car or the other vehicle involved than it would to pay out of your own pocket, then it’s worth your while to make a claim. That’s what insurance is there for, after all.

You’ll need to consider a few things, such as how serious the damage to the vehicle is (if it’d cost several thousands of pounds to repair then it makes sense to claim on insurance), your excess, plus whether or not the claim is a ‘fault’ claim and you’re at risk of affecting your no-claims bonus.

Even if you choose not to make a claim on your insurance, you still need to let your insurer know about any accidents or bumps you have in your vehicle.

Will making a claim affect my no-claims bonus?

Unless you’ve protected your no-claims bonus (this may be offered as a policy add-on), then it’s likely to be reduced, usually by two years, if you make a fault claim.

A fault claim is one where the accident was your fault, or you’re not to blame but costs can’t be claimed from the other driver’s insurance (for example, if they hit your car and left the scene without exchanging details).

If your claim is settled as non-fault, your no-claims bonus shouldn’t be affected.

When fault and liability can’t be agreed, then insurers may share the claim payout. As a result, both yours and the other driver’s no-claims bonus may be affected.

Will making a claim increase my premium?

Unfortunately, making a claim on your policy, no matter whose fault the accident was, almost always results in an increase in your premium at renewal time.

That’s because insurers consider people that’ve been involved in an accident (even one where they’re not to blame) as being more likely to be involved in another.

Can I cancel an open car insurance claim?

Yes, it’s possible to do this in some circumstances.

For example, if you raised an insurance claim after your car was damaged in a storm by a falling roof tile, but later found out that paying for the repairs yourself would cost you less (or just a small amount more) than your policy excess, you may decide it’s not worthwhile to pursue the claim.

You should aim to cancel an open claim before your provider has spent time on it.

However, you can’t cancel a claim made against you by another driver.

Remember that even if you don’t follow through with the claim, it will likely affect the cost of your car insurance premium.

What to do if someone claims against you

Exchange details with the other driver and inform your insurance company as soon as possible.

If it accepts the accident was your fault, then your insurer will settle the claim. If fault is unclear, then the insurer will investigate the evidence, such as CCTV, witness statements, and areas of damage on the cars involved to assess the incident.

It will decide which driver was at fault, and the claim can be settled. If a decision can’t be made, or you’re both to blame, the insurers usually split the claim between the parties involved.

What to do if your car is written off

If your car’s been written off, your insurer will offer you its market value at the time of the accident.

This is usually less than you originally paid for it because your car loses value over time. So the payment you receive might not cover buying a similar replacement.

Here’s where Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) insurance can be valuable. It’ll cover the difference between what you paid for the car and what the insurer will pay out.

Inform your GAP provider as soon as possible before accepting any settlement from your insurer. When your claim is settled with your insurer, it’ll release the money.

What to do if your car is stolen

Report your car as stolen to the police straight away. They’ll give you a crime reference number which you’ll need to make a claim.

If your car is found and has minimal damage, then your insurer should settle the claim quickly. If the damage is substantial, then it may take longer. But your insurer must make you a reasonable offer within three months.

If your car isn’t found, or it’s written off, then your insurance company will offer you the market value of your car at the time it was stolen.

Claiming for an injury

If you've been injured as a result of road traffic accident, your insurer may submit a claim for compensation to the at-fault party.

If you're the at-fault party, your policy might still include some cover for your injuries, known as personal accident cover.

If you've been injured, seek treatment right way but make sure you keep a record of your injuries and any medical attention you've received, as your insurer might ask you for this as part of a claim.

What if the other driver isn’t insured?

If you’re unlucky enough to be hit or are hurt in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, then you can still make a claim for repairs to your vehicle with your own insurer if you have fully comprehensive car insurance.

It’s likely to be more complicated than a claim where both parties are insured. But you won’t usually lose your no-claims discount or need to pay an excess.

People with third-party only, or third party, fire and theft motor insurance can apply to make a claim for compensation from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) instead.

It’s an organisation set up by motor insurance companies which helps insured drivers claim compensation in these circumstances. The money you receive is funded by insurance premiums paid by insured drivers.

Just make sure you gather as much information as possible about the accident to help any claim go smoothly. For example, the other driver’s name and address, plus the make, model and colour of their vehicle. Take photos of any damage to your vehicle, gather witness details and any dash cam footage.

If you’ve been involved in a motoring accident and you need to check if the other vehicle is insured, you can find out quickly online with the insurance checker. The service costs £10.

Why might a car insurance claim be rejected?

Latest data from the Association of British Insurers (ABI)* shows that 99% of motor insurance claims made in 2019/20 were accepted, with an average payout of £3,040. So, it’s unusual for a claim to be rejected.

That said, there are a few reasons why insurance companies might reject a claim. For example:

  • ‘Fronting’ - This is where you insure your car in the name of someone who’s not the main driver to reduce your premium. This is insurance fraud and will invalidate your claim
  • Negligent behaviour - Driving your car irresponsibly or leaving your car unlocked and your key in the ignition can get your claim refused. Similarly, if your car is in a poor, unroadworthy condition and this contributed to the cause of the accident
  • Failing to disclose previous driving accidents, convictions or claims
  • Driving without a current MOT or valid driving licence
  • Modifying your car could invalidate your insurance unless you’ve informed your provider

How long will a car insurance claim stay on my record?

When you get a quote for vehicle insurance, most insurance companies will ask about any claims or incidents you’ve had in the last five years.

They’ll usually want to know things like how much the claim amounted to, who was at fault and if anyone was injured in the incident.

Will I have to pay an excess if I claim?

Almost all car insurance policies come with an insurance excess – the amount you have to pay towards a claim.

The total excess you pay is made up of a compulsory excess (an amount decided by the insurer), plus a voluntary excess (an amount chosen by you based on what you could afford to pay if you claimed). Choosing to pay a higher voluntary excess can make your insurance premiums cheaper as you’ll be footing more of the bill yourself.

If an accident is fully or partially your fault, you’ll need to pay the excess on your policy to settle a claim. However, if it’s proven that the accident was the other driver’s fault and your insurer recovers full costs from their insurer, you should have your excess refunded.

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