How to make a van insurance claim

  • | by Dave Jenkins

Crash. Bang. Wallop. Mild ding or massive pile-up, a crash is every motorists' worst nightmare.

Especially van drivers; your wheels are your livelihood whether you’re carrying precious cargo or the tools of the trade – both of which need repairing or replacing as soon as possible.

So what happens when you have a crash in a commercial vehicle? And what sort of van insurance do you need to have in place in the first place? Let's find out...

The essential van insurance coverage

You'll already be aware of the main van insurance policy you need to drive under: carriage of own goods or carriage of tools. Under this you'll be protected for all the regular social, domestic, pleasure cover as well as business travel. You'll have choices of third party only, third party, fire and theft and comprehensive cover just like a regular motoring policy, but you'll also have specific cover for business related equipment such as tools or stock. This is ideal for many van scenarios; builders, plumbers, carpenters, florists, window cleaners, shop keepers and such.

However, if you're delivering or moving someone else's cargo then you'll need carriage of goods for hire and reward cover. This is split into two distinct categories; haulage or courier. Haulage is based on one or two deliveries a day ordered through set contracts.

Courier insurance, on the other hand, extends the cover to include all multi-drop jobs and goods for payment such as fast food delivery or catalogue delivery services. Both haulage and courier insurance would include goods in transit cover, the value of which is arranged by your insurer as each policy is different depending on what exactly is in your van. These policies will also include public liability, employer's liability and emergency breakdown cover.

These are basic legal requirements for all van drivers. So if you haven't got this level of coverage, ring your insurer before your next delivery!

I know all that, but what happens if I crash my van?

Good news! Well, as good news as a crash can be; any incident is a massive headache, but a crash in your van is no more complicated than any other motoring scenario; the main factor stays the same: “The focus is on mobility and getting customer back in the position they were as quickly and efficiently as possible,” assures Lynne Clark, claims controller at Eldon Insurance Services.

Be prepared; ensure you've always got a first aid kit and pen and paper handy in your glove box. If you're driving a lot at night, a torch is a wise addition to your inventory too.

Naturally it's vital - not mention a legal requirement - to stop and, having checked if anyone is hurt, call an ambulance and the police. Keep that phone out; take pictures of the scene from as many angles as safely possible. Do not move any vehicles before you've done this. Ideally all vehicle positions should be noted by an independent witness and shouldn't be moved at all.

Now discuss the incident with the other parties in the crash. The standard procedure is in place here; share names, addresses, phone numbers and everyone's registration numbers at the very least. If possible – and you know the details off hand – swap insurance company information. One thing you don't do is admit any liability!

Yes, but unfortunately it was my fault...

Your insurers will work that one out. And they're your next port of call after the emergency services. Most have a 24 hour claim line and the sooner you speak to your insurers, the quicker this messy situation can be solved. They need details; the more accurate information they get, the better.

Once you've proved you're the policy holder you'll be interviewed on every aspect of the crash; time, date, synopsis, other parties, witnesses, injuries. They'll also be able to arrange for emergency breakdown recovery, replacement of goods and tools (if you have the correct coverage in place of course).

And all my goods have spilled over the road...

Perhaps the biggest difference between a commercial and domestic claim; naturally things do get messy here. Do not try and clear it up yourself! “This is usually cleared by Police/Highways agency,” explains Lynne. “But the cost would be met by an insurer if this was due to an accident.”

Hmmm, sounds like this will affect my No Claims Bonus on my regular domestic policy?

“Not likely,” says Lynne. “But a driver is obliged to disclose any incidents, claims or losses to any insurer which they seek cover from as this allows the insurer to accurately rate the risk and prevents any issues come a claim or renewal.”

Essentially your premium may be rated but your No Claims Bonus will still be in effect.

Okay. Sounds like it's going to take a while for me to be back on the road

No matter what type of motoring claim you make, if it is or isn’t your fault, your insurer's job is to ensure speedy recovery in every sense. Depending on your insurer, the policy details and the nature of the incident, it could take several weeks for full repair and replacement.

“Repair time varies depending on severity of damage and parts availability but typical repair time would be 14 days,” says Lynne. “Total losses are 14-21 days, dependant on documentation being made available.”

Right. But what if it's not my fault? I've heard about claims management companies who can organise everything very quickly on your behalf...

Yes, there are companies who work in a similar way to 'no win, no fee' legal companies in that they'll organise your recovery and recoup their costs (and a profit) once your claim has been settled. They may seem like a speedy solution (and there are heaps battling it out for your attention online) but read the small print before you involve them in your claim.

“Customers are able to utilise any accident claims management company they wish in the event of a non-fault accident and don’t always seek indemnity through their own policy, unwilling to pay an excess etc when things were not their fault,” explains Lynne. “Claims management companies are regulated in their own right by the Ministry of Justice."