Make a successful claim on your car insurance

17 September 2009

Hopefully most of us won’t ever have to claim on our insurance. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to make a claim, it’s important to know what steps you need to take to ensure a successful and smooth payout.

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1. Get the information

If you have been involved in an accident, don’t be tempted to drive away. Instead, make sure your vehicle is safe and secure - pull over if you are in the middle of the road. If the accident is particularly serious or somebody is injured, you should call the police as this can help if there is any legal follow-up after the accident.

Once it is safe to do so, make sure you exchange your details with anybody else involved. Give your name, addresses, contact details and the name of your insurer, and make sure you get the same from them. You should also make a note of the make and model of the car and the registration number.

Don’t forget to also take contact information from any witnesses.

Whatever you do, don’t admit liability for the accident at this stage and do not offer to pay any other drivers any money as this could invalidate your insurance. If the other driver admits liability, however, it’s worth making a note of this.

2. Get the picture

If you have a camera or mobile phone that takes photos, take several shots of the accident scene to include as many angles as possible and close-ups of any damage. Make a note of the time and date of the incident, the weather conditions at the time it occurred and the exact address of where it happened.

3. Report it

Report the accident to your car insurer as soon as you can, even if you don’t intend to make a claim. You may be asked to provide all the details of the accident over the phone, or your insurer may send you a claims form to fill in. Some insurers also allow you to make a claim online.

If your car has been vandalised or stolen, or you believe an accident was unlawful – such as a suspected speeding or drunk driver - you should also report the matter to the police as soon as possible and get a crime reference number.

4. Should you make a claim?

When it comes to claiming on your car insurance, bear in mind that you may have to pay an excess, particularly if the incident was your fault. The excess is the contribution you have to make to an insurance claim; you can find out what you’ll have to pay by checking your policy document or by contacting your insurer.

However, if the incident is a non-fault claim – whereby the claim is settled by a third-party’s insurance company – you shouldn’t have to pay any excess.

Depending on the level of damage – and how much it will cost to fix it – you may decide that it simply isn’t financially worth claiming as the cost of repair maybe less or similar to your excess.

In addition, making a claim could impact the price you pay for insurance in the future, as you could lose any no-claims bonus you’ve built up.

5. How does a claim work?

The claims process will vary from insurer to insurer, but generally speaking you should follow the recommendations your insurance company makes to ensure the process runs as smoothly and as quickly as possible.

You should inform your insurer as soon as possible and make sure you have to hand all the relevant information about the accident or incident, including the contact details of any other parties, your crime reference number and an exact account of what happened.

Keep a copy of all correspondence and documents or receipts relating to your claim.

Unfortunately, the rise in insurance fraud means insurers may ask you to provide a lot of information. It’s best to give your insurer as much detail as you have, and be as detailed and honest as possible.

6. Fixing it

If your vehicle needs to be taken into a garage for repairs, it’s a good idea to use the firm recommended by your insurer as it will have been approved for offering good service and high quality repairs.

If you have a garage you particularly want to use, bear in mind your claim might take longer if your insurer doesn’t agree with the estimate given. Whatever you do, don’t take your car into a garage for repairs without first making sure your insurer will cover your claim.

7. What if it’s not your fault?

If the other party was to blame and accepts liability, then their insurer should pay for the damages incurred. If you have comprehensive car insurance, however, it may be that your insurer pays for any damage and bills the other.

Even if the accident wasn’t your fault, you should still follow the same claims process detailed above. If the other driver accepts liability, find out whether you can claim for miscellaneous expenses such as phone calls, any loss of earnings and medical bills. You may also be offered a replacement vehicle, or payment towards a hire car or even taxis.

If the other driver wasn’t insured, then your insurance should cover the cost of any direct damage to your vehicle. However, you won’t be able to claim back any additional costs – such as taxis or phone calls – and you will also have to pay the excess. 

Another option is to contact the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB), the body set up to help compensate motorists who have been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver.

Will Thomas, head of motor at, says: “You will have to pay the MIB £500 excess upfront, but depending on the amount of money you are looking to claim, this might be worth it.”

He adds: “If you do have an accident and suspect the driver doesn’t have insurance, you should contact the police as soon as possible.”

Uninsured drivers kill three people and injure 460 every week, according to the MIB, and cost the insurance industry £400 million last year.

8. What if your claim is rejected?

If your claim is rejected by your insurer, you should find out the reason why and ask for a written statement.

One common dispute that can arise is when a car is written off and the owner can’t agree on a valuation with the insurer. Thomas says: “Most insurers are fair but if you do get into a dispute about valuation, for example, you need to collect as much information as possible to back up your claim.

Second-hand car values have increased, so use the internet to get a better idea of what it will cost to replace your written-off vehicle. And if you have any photographs that show the condition of the car before the accident, make sure you share these with your insurer.

If you don’t agree on the reasons your claim has been rejected, you think you’ve been treated unfairly or you can’t agree on a valuation, then talk to your insurer about its disputes process.

If this proves fruitless, then as a last resort you can then contact the Financial Ombudsman Service, which will act as a mediator in your case

9. Choose a car insurer you trust

The stress of being involved in a car accident can be huge, especially if you’ve also suffered an injury. So the last thing you want is for your car insurer to make a fuss and be difficult about paying out.

For that reason, it’s well worth picking an insurer that has a good reputation – this could be based on a personal recommendation from friends, a previous experience you’ve had, or through your own research using websites such as Moneywise.

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