A Guide to Claiming on Your Car Insurance

Top Tips

What You Need to Know

  1. Given that traffic accidents are always stressful, it’s a good idea to know in advance the steps you’ll need to make a claim. Otherwise, in the heat of the moment, you may miss key details that could effect whether you receive a payout.
  2. If you’re involved in an accident, before doing anything else be sure to call 999 if anyone is in need of medical attention or the road has become blocked.
  3. Make sure you collect the contact and insurance details of all the drivers involved, and if possible take the details of any witnesses who may be able to clarify what happened.
  4. If you have a camera use it to document the scene and any damage to your vehicle.
  5. Don’t verbally accept liability or blame, as this could effect you if it later comes to light that you were not at fault and need to claim.
  6. Contact your insurer as soon as possible. Your policy will usually have a set time limit after which you cannot claim.
  7. Be sure to document all details of your correspondence with your insurer.
  8. It’s best not to pay for any repair work until you’ve received a definitive assurance from your insurer that you’ll be reimbursed.
  9. Bear in mind that if your car is written off the payout you’ll receive will normally fall between the current market price and the trade price.
  10. The Financial Ombudsman can help resolve disputes between you and your insurer.

Most drivers in the UK will have to make a claim on their car insurance policies at some point in their lives, whether it's for a minor scrape or more significant damage. Knowing the correct procedure to follow when making a claim will help ensure you receive the payout you need in the shortest time frame possible.

Given that, if you do have an accident, it’s likely to be a highly stressful situation, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the course of action you’ll need to take when making a claim:

Record the Details of the Incident

When making your claim it will be important to be able to provide your insurer with as much detail about the incident as possible. Therefore, whilst still at the scene, it’s important to remain collected and record all the relevant information you’ll need whilst you have the opportunity. Of course, before you do anything else you should dial 999 and inform the emergency services if:

  • Anyone is in need of medical attention.
  • The road has become blocked.
  • The other party has driven away without stopping.
  • Your car has been deliberately damaged by criminal activity.

Once you’ve done this you need to start gathering the details you need in order to make a claim:

  • You’ll need the contact details, name, address and insurance particulars of the other driver as well as the registration number of any other vehicles involved.
  • If there are any witnesses to the incident, you should also take their details in case they are later needed to confirm your version of events.
  • You also need to make a record of details such as the date, location and exact of time of the incident, as well as the weather conditions and any other factors that contributed to the accident.
  • If you have a camera in your car or on your phone you should photograph the scene as much as possible. If you can’t get to a camera, be sure to make a sketch or at least write down an account of what happened whilst all the details are fresh in your mind.
  • If you’re dealing with the police note down the crime reference number they’ll provide you with as well the details of their identities, including their names and badge numbers.
  • During your interactions with the other parties do not accept liability or concede the blame for the accident. This can prevent you receiving a payout even if it turns out you were mistaken and not at fault at all.

Contact Your Insurer

As soon as you’re able to you should contact your insurer. Normally, policies will place a limit on the time you can wait between having an accident and making a claim, so it’s important not to delay unnecessarily.

Another reason for reporting an incident straight away is that the details will be fresh in your mind. As sated above, the more detailed your account, the easier it is for claims assessors to decide the outcome of your claim. Indeed, if you omit key details from your report, even by accident, it could lead to your claim being rejected.

Even if the other driver was at fault, it is best to call your own insurer to advise them that your car has been damaged. This can speed up the claims process and will get you back on the road sooner.

Keep All Documentation

Once you have reported your claim, you may be sent a claims form to fill out and return to your insurer. Some firms are happy to take details over the phone, but many still use claims forms to have details of the incident in writing.

Throughout the claim you may receive various pieces of correspondence from your insurer – it is important to keep these documents to help you follow the progress of your claim. If you are given a verbal reference number over the phone, make sure you write it down and keep a record of it. It will need to be included with any further documentation you send to the claims department, and may be asked for over the phone as well.

Preferred Garages

The insurer’s next step will normally be to get an assessor to give their judgement on the extent of the damage and how much it will cost to repair your car. Before going ahead and having your car repaired it’s best to make sure you have a clear agreement with your insurer that you are going to be reimbursed.

It is likely that, in order to get this agreement in place, you will have to use a garage approved by your insurer. If you simply go to a garage and attempt to claim the money back later you may find it difficult to get payment.

Some insurers may require you to acquire different quotes for the repairs needed before agreeing to fund the work. It is important that you do not act on a quote before your insurer gives you the go ahead as, again, this could prevent them from reimbursing you.


An excess is the amount of money a customer pays towards a claim. If the damage caused was the fault of a third party, you can recuperate your excess costs from their side, however for any other claims the fee must be paid by you.

The level of excess you have set on your policy should be a big factor in your decision whether to claim or not. By having a high excess you can benefit from lower premiums but this does mean claiming could be just as expensive as having the damage repaired out of your own pocket, especially if you stand to loose your no claims bonus.

Unfortunately, if you’re hit by an uninsured driver, you’ll have to pay the excess yourself and you will usually only be able to claim at all if you have comprehensive cover. However, you may be able to claim compensation for some of your expenses from the Motor Insurer’s Bureau as part of the Uninsured Drivers Agreement.

Write Offs

If your car is written off (if it would cost more to make roadworthy than to replace) then you will receive a payout equivalent to its value at the time of the crash. The amount offered will take into account the age and condition of the vehicle, its service history and, with these factors in mind, will be somewhere between the trade price (what a dealer would pay) and the market value (what you’d pay as a customer).

If you feel the amount you are offered is too low, you may be able to dispute it by appealing to the The Financial Ombudsman Service. To this you will need to gather up solid evidence that your car was genuinely worth more than you were offered. For instance, you could look through listings to find examples of the prices being asked for similar models in an equivalent condition and see if there is a big discrepancy between what you find and the amount you’ve been offered.

Rejected claims

If, for whatever reason, your insurer will not honour a claim, it is advised that you read through your policy documents to ensure the claim was rejected fairly. There are certain circumstances where you may have the legal right to be reimbursed for your loss, even if the company has refused to pay out. Policyholders that think they may be entitled to reimbursement should seek legal advice before taking action.

Further Reading

George_Wickham George_Wickham

This advice is wrong. Victims of an RTA, whether fault or otherwise, are legally entitled to take their vehicle to any garage / repairer of their choice, whether or not it's a preferred supplier of the insurer, so long as the repairer has accredited status.

This is a basic principle of TCF - the absolute freedom of choice of the consumer.


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