Claims Procedure

Most insurers will follow a certain procedure in the event of a claim. There are three main stages to a claim: making the claim, managing the claim and judging the claim.

Making the Claim

Your insurer's claims helpline number is printed in your car insurance policy booklet. You have a couple of days to report an accident and you must inform your insurer of every accident you have, even if you do not wish to make a claim. If you do wish to proceed with a claim, you should provide them with the following information:

  • Your name, address and contact phone number(s) – and those of the driver if not you
  • Personal details to confirm your identity
  • Policy number
  • Any convictions recorded on your driving licence
  • The type and age of your vehicle, plus a description of any damage it sustained
  • Full details of the incident – including where, when, how it happened, and details of who was involved
  • Your opinion on who was at fault, if relevant

You may find that making the claim by telephone is much easier than filling out complicated and lengthy forms. The claims staff will also be able to ask questions about particular details of the accident if the information you give is not clear.

When you give your policy number, the claims staff will:

If your vehicle requires immediate removal from the scene of the accident, the claims handler will arrange this for you.

Before ending the call, claims staff will offer you advice and guidance, and if applicable direct you to their Driver Counselling Service, which aims to rebuild your confidence after an accident.

Managing the Claim

Once you have made a claim, it is up to your insurer to establish who is responsible for the accident, and therefore whether or not they will have to 'indemnify' you. Indemnify is insurance jargon which essentially means that they will cover any costs for which you may be liable. Ultimately, they will determine whether your insurance will pay, or another driver's.

If you have fully comprehensive insurance and your insurer has decided that they will pay out, then your claim is first handed to the engineering department. A mechanic hired by your insurer will examine the car to see whether the damage is consistent with the accident report before authorising further action. This action will either be repair of your car, or a declaration that it is 'written-off'. A 'write-off' is a vehicle for which repairs are no longer a reasonable financial option.

If your vehicle requires repairs, it should be taken to an approved garage. This speeds up the claims process as insurers often work together with the garage to provide a cost effective and efficient service. They may also be able to benefit from pre-arranged 'partner' discounts. If you insist on using a non-approved garage, you would have to arrange an estimate yourself and have this approved by your insurer before any repairs can be made.

Judging the Claim

Once your car is repaired, any costs involved should be paid by your insurer, minus the excess which is stated on your schedule. The excess is the amount you are required to pay towards any repairs or compensation you may receive as a result of a claim. If your car is repaired to a higher standard than it was before the accident, you will also have to pay for that part of the repair. Your car is only returned to you once both these charges have been paid.

If your car has been 'written-off', the pay-out you receive will be based on an estimate of its market value before the accident took place. If you have made non-standard modifications, a mechanic may be consulted to advise if this value is a fair estimate. You are able to negotiate the final pay-out to a certain extent, so you may wish to reject the first offer they give you. If any dispute arises between you and your insurer you may wish to consult the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) (see Complaints Procedure).