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Making a claim on your car insurance: the process, time and costs

Car accidents, of any sort (no matter how minor or major) can be difficult to manage.  The process, length of time it takes before the claim is settled, and the costs are three huge areas of concern for most road users involved in an incident.


 Table of contents

  1. What happens if I’m involved in a car accident?
  2. How long should I wait before claiming on my car insurance?
  3. How long does an insurance claim take?
  4. Why could my car insurance claim be rejected? 
  5. Does a claim affect my car insurance?
  6. Do additional drivers have different restrictions?
  7. Car insurance claims: final thoughts

We’ve taken the most general questions asked by drivers throughout the UK about making a car insurance claim and compiled them with our answers below.

What if I’m involved in a car accident?

Make sure you and everyone in your car is safe

Whilst you may be concerned about your car or your possessions, your life and the safety of your passengers is more important.

Move to a safe place away from the immediate scene of the accident, if you’re able to do so and if needed contact the emergency services.

Calling the emergency services

It is important you let the professionals do their job. If you or anyone involved in the crash is injured, you need to call 999 and explain your situation to the best of your abilities.

Other reasons for calling the emergency services:

  • The accident is blocking the road or there is debris on the road
  • There is damage to the road surface or street furniture; for example, lampposts, traffic lights, barriers, signs etc.
  • The other person involved in the accident has left the scene without leaving contact information
  • You feel that the situation is not being handled correctly and could escalate

Remember: fleeing the scene of an accident without leaving contact/insurance details can land you with a fine up to £2,500 or 10 points on your licence.

Exchange insurance and contact information

Anybody involved in a car accident must, by law, leave their name and number for insurance purposes. This applies even if you’ve hit a parked car. You still need to make sure you leave your details in a place which the driver will see (usually on the windscreen).

The most important information needed:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Car registration number
  • Insurance details
  • Contact numbers (be sure to double check this number before the other driver leaves the scene – a quick test call won’t hurt!)

How to save time, hassle and costs

An accident can be very stressful, which makes remembering all of the details correctly much more difficult. If you don't have a black box or dashcam installed in your car, it's important that you or your passengers are able to take pictures or videos of:

  • Make, model and colour of any vehicles involved
  • New vs. old damage
  • Location of impact
  • Any injuries to yourself or other passengers

And, if you can, take a note of the driver’s appearance. This could be helpful in the event of speaking to police should the other driver flee the scene.

Pro tip: Don’t try and take a picture of the other driver, this could further aggravate an already difficult situation!

Any information you can provide to your insurer to show what has happened will help them with your claim and help make sure you’re protected.

How long should I wait before claiming on my car insurance?

As the old saying goes; the sooner the better.

If it’s not possible to call your insurer from the scene of the accident, then it’s important you do it as soon as you can. Most insurers have their own restrictions on how long you have to report a claim – some of which can range from a few days to a number of weeks.

If you’re unsure or want to settle the claim quickly, we suggest you leave it no longer than 24 hours.

How long can a claim on my car insurance take?

This question is one of the most commonly asked amongst drivers and for good reason. The longer a claim takes, the longer you could be without a car. This could also affect your financial situation should you need to hire a car for the duration of the insurance claim.

The length of time you can expect to wait before a claim is settled, largely depends on the type of claim you’re making. For example:

  • Personal injury claims – have the potential to take a long time if medical assessments or additional treatment is needed.
  • Total loss claim – this means your car isn't repairable (also known as a write-off). At this point, your insurer will agree a settlement figure with you which is likely to be agreed within 30 days, once your insurer has assessed the car and agreed it is a write off.
  • Physical damage (to vehicle) – usually the quickest type of claim depending on the complexity of damage to your car and the availability of your insurer’s preferred body shop.

Be sure you take the proper precautions by taking photos of the damage, reporting the incident within 24 hours and providing the necessary insurance information, to help speed the claims process up.

Here are some common things to avoid which could cause delays to your car insurance claim:

  • Poor communication with your insurer
  • Disputes about the level of cover available
  • Being particular about the body shop your car is being repaired in/ not using the approved repairer
  • Not being able to pay your excess if your insurer requests it upfront
  • Missing appointments organised by your insurer (your car may need to be assessed to see levels of damage)

Why could my car insurance claim could be rejected?

Imagine being involved in an accident and having your car written off only to find out that you can’t actually make a claim on your car insurance.

A lot of rejected claims could have been avoided. So, here’s a list of very common reasons why your car insurance may not cover you in the event of a claim.

Not reading the small print!

It’s a real shame but we’re all guilty of it. We often focus on the more obvious elements of car insurance and forget to go through the more intricate details of cover.

Each insurer has their own policy clauses, which drivers have to agree to, that enables them to make a claim. If, for some reason, you have overlooked an important section in your policy documents, it could mean bad news for you.

Set yourself an hour or so aside to go through your entire policy document.

Lying about your insurance details

I’m sure you’ve read about the ways people are saving money on their car insurance by slightly bending the truth about their address, their occupation or the amount of miles they’ll be driving.

There’s a time and a place to lie about your details (I’m thinking age on a first date!) but, with insurance, if details are incorrect, your insurer could increase your premium, cancel your policy, treat is as if it never existed, refuse a claim or not pay the claim in full.

Be honest about your situation at all times during your policy. This also means if any of your details change.

Modifying your car and keeping it quiet

You would be surprised that something like altering your car’s badge could cause your car insurance to become invalid in the event of a claim.

Whilst this is an extreme example, it can happen. It pays to inform your insurer of any alterations to your car; no matter how big or small.

Your car needs to be as described to the insurer when you initially took your cover out.

Out of date documents

It is required, by law, that you keep any legal documents up to date.

This includes:

  • Driving licence
  • MOT
  • Tax
  • Any additional badges or licences you may need to be on the road

If any of the necessary documents you need are close to expiring, make sure you take the proper steps to keep your car legal.

It doesn’t matter if the document is out of date by a single day – this could be reason enough for your claim to be rejected.

Does a claim affect my car insurance?

There are many ways in which a claim could affect your car insurance premium.

A common misconception is that only “at-fault” accidents impact on the cost of your insurance.

In fact, any type of claim under your car insurance policy could affect the amount you pay at the next renewal of your policy. Insurance prices are based on a number of different factors, and one of the biggest potential discounts you can earn is from any No Claims Discount (NCD) you have earned.

Maximum No Claims Discount can be 50% - 75% discount depending on your insurer!

An “at-fault” claim indicates that your insurer wasn’t able to recover all the costs incurred settling your claim. It doesn’t always identify which party was responsible for the accident. If a claim is settled as “at-fault”, this can result in any No Claims Discount you have earned being reduced or removed from your insurance policy entirely. Unless you have chosen to protect it.

Likewise, a “non-fault” accident means that your insurer has been able to recover all of the costs incurred settling your claim. If a claim is settled as “non-fault”, your No Claims Discount will not be affected and will increase at the next renewal of your policy.

Pro Tip:  Having a dashcam installed in your car, or buying black box insurance, where all your journeys are recorded, can help the insurer prove what happened in the event of an accident. If your insurer can prove you were not “at-fault” you are more likely to keep your No Claims Discount and avoid paying any excess.

Do additional drivers have different restrictions?

If you have additional drivers on your car insurance policy, it’s always best to check what usage restrictions are applicable. For example: not every insurance provider offers business use as standard for additional drivers.

And, yes, this means your named driver may not be covered to use the car for work.

It’s also important to know where you can look and check you’re covered properly within your policy documents. Normally, you’ll find any information about additional drivers (or named drivers) on your certificate of insurance.

If, after hours of searching, you can’t find anything, it would be best to give your insurance provider a call.

Car insurance claims: final thoughts

Accidents happen. You can try your best to avoid them by being safe, staying aware of your surroundings, and sticking to the rules of the road.

However, sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s at this point you should remember to protect yourself by being vigilant, being upfront and honest with your insurer and by staying legal.

We recommend you prepare yourself by understanding the details of your policy (even the really boring small print) and by researching commonly asked question amongst other drivers. You will soon see a very clear picture of how drivers deal with claims which could help you avoid difficult and drawn out claim situations.

Remember:

  • Read the small print
  • Make sure you know what to do if you are involved in an incident
  • Keep all your important numbers to hand

Pro tip – put your claims and breakdown numbers in your phone when you take out your policy, so they’re to hand if you ever need them.