How to claim on your Car Insurance

What you need to do

Be prepared. Accidents are never expected, so make sure you have what you may need at the time stowed in your car. It is good practice to have some of the following items available:

  • torch & spare batteries
  • warning triangle
  • first aid kit
  • blanket
  • disposable camera
  • pen and paper
  • insurance details
  • claims phone no.

Some car manufacturers now fit first aid kits as standard, but if you don’t have one, you can usually find them at car accessory stores.

In the event of an actual accident,  the first thing to do is make the area safe and attend to any injuries. This information is now included in the Highway Code. As it has changed many times over the years, a new copy should be bought and read thoroughly on a regular basis, to keep yourself up to date.

Note down all important information such as vehicle registration plate numbers, other people’s names and contact details. If the accident wasn’t your fault, try to get the details of a witness, as this can often come in very handy if the third party insurance company decides to question your version of events, and if you have a camera, take photos. Also, write down all you can remember about the accident as early as you can, to make a permanent record you can refer back to later.

Reporting a car accident 

If you have an accident, it is in your own interest to report it to your motor insurance company as soon as possible, whether you intend to claim or not, as often there will be a thirty day time limit, and should something unexpected arise in the future, you will continue to be covered.

For instance, a personal injury claim could still be brought against you for up to 3 years on from the original accident date,  but if if you did not disclose it to your insurers, then you may be left personally liable. If you are worried about losing any discount for no claims, this won’t happen, unless your insurer has to pay a claim out.

Considering the size of compensation awards when somebody suffers relatively minor injuries, (such as whip-lash), you would not want this coming out of your own pocket. There is also your legal obligation to provide your details to anyone else who might reasonably require them.

If you do not provide your details, you must report the accident to the police within 24 hours. They may well want to see your documents, so remember to take them with you, your driving licence – both parts if it is a photo one, your insurance certificate and if your vehicle is more than three years old, your current test certificate.

Some insurance brokers offer a dedicated claimsline service to help out customers, and they can be very helpful, chasing your claim through the system and keeping you informed throughout the process. It also helps knowing that experienced claims handlers who liaise with insurance companies, inspection engineers and garages all day can give you the best quality advice and help sort your claim for you in a professional manner.

A lot of brokers and some car insurance companies will offer legal cover when a policy is first quoted. It is sometimes worth pushing to see if you can get this included for free, (some companies do this anyway), as it will certainly pay for itself if you need it. 

Replacement Vehicles

It’s important to know that even if you specified this option when buying your insurance, there are circumstances when it won’t apply. With a comprehensive policy, the maximum amount you are insured for is the market value of the vehicle, so if you suffer a total loss, such as a fire, theft, or your car is written off, they will pay you this amount only. As a courtesy car would be extra on top of this, you may find that one is not provided for you, although there are certain additional products you can buy that will guarantee a replacement vehicle in this event, such as theft protect.

Initiating your Claim

Always read your policy wording first before filing a claim or filling in any claim forms, so you know exactly what you are, and what you aren’t covered for. Get someone such as your broker to check it over before submitting it to the claims department, to make sure you haven’t made any silly mistakes that may cause problems later on.

Familiarise yourself with the company’s claims process and make sure you abide by it carefully. When insurance companies repudiate a claim, people often complain that insurers will do anything to get out of paying them. This is not correct, but it is best to follow their procedures, and policy wording properly, as this gives them less reason to turn down any claim.

Dealing with Claims Handlers

Claims departments are notoriously understaffed which is why the claims process can take so long. With this in mind, you need to keep in regular contact with your broker or claims handler to make sure you don’t get relegated to the bottom of the pile. Keep records of dates, times and who you spoke to, and always ask when you will be called back. Doing this will ensure the claims handler knows you know who they are and when they promised to call back, so they will be more inclined to make sure they do what they say to avoid any hassle.

Claims handlers often have to put up with a lot from disgruntled customers, so be sympathetic, at least to start with. If they don’t call you back the day they said, always call them the following day, ask for them by name, and ask for a progress report. This puts responsibility on them to make sure they meet call back deadlines and get stuff done for you. If they have nothing new to advise you, try not to lose your temper, but ask them why your claim is being delayed. There may be a perfectly valid reason and knowing why will at least re-assure you that you are being dealt with and not being overlooked. Alternatively, as mentioned above, they may just be chronically understaffed, and in these circumstances, there will always be a backlog which takes time to work through.

Follow these guidelines, and with a bit of patience and common sense, your claim should be settled and your cheque sent out in a reasonable amount of time.

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