How to make a car insurance claim

Last updated: 5 November 2019   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Making a car insurance claim if your car is involved in an accident can be stressful but knowing the steps to take can help.

In this guide, we'll go through what you need to do immediately following an accident and the details you need to supply to your insurance company.

As well as this, we'll discuss repairs and whether it's worth claiming on your policy at all. We'll also cover what the process is if you're hit by an uninsured driver or your car is stolen.

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car insurance claim damage

Types of car insurance

Before making a claim, it's important to know which type of car insurance you have so you can determine whether it's worth making a claim or not and what customers can claim for.

There are three distinctive types of car insurance: fully comprehensive, third party, fire and theft, and third party only. Here's a brief recap of these motor insurance types:

Fully comprehensive

As the name suggests, fully comprehensive car insurance cover is the most comprehensive type of cover on the market and it covers motorists for damage caused to their own car during an accident. It also covers damage to other vehicles involved in the crash.

Comprehensive motor insurance can also cover elements such as personal injury, personal possessions and windscreen damage.

Every policy is difference, and you can read more about the best comprehensive car insurance quotes in our dedicated guide on the subject.

Third party, fire and theft

The important thing to note about third party, fire and theft motor insurance is that it does not cover a customer's own vehicle in the event of an accident. This means that damage to your own car following an accident can't be claimed on the insurance policy (although damage by fire and theft can be).

In the case of an accident, though, financial cover for the damage caused to other vehicles and road users can be claimed.

Third party only

Third party only is the most basic level of motor insurance available, and it's a legal requirement that all drivers must be covered to this minimum level.

Just like third party, fire and theft, this type of insurance doesn't cover any damage to your own vehicle. However, damage caused to others by your vehicle is covered under third party only motor insurance.

Should you claim?

It's useful ahead of any car accident or incident to think about the circumstances in which you would claim on your motor insurance, especially if you're fully comprehensive.

These are some reasons why claiming for damage might not be the right course of action:

  • Excess - An excess keeps insurance premiums low by ensuring customers will pay a contribution towards any claim. This means customers don't claim for minor damage all the time, but it also means that if you have an excess of £250 and the damage only comes to £300, it might not be worth the extra hassle to claim the £50, especially if it impacts a no-claims discount.
  • No-claims discount - Protecting a no-claims discount can lower premiums in the future, so if this a consideration then making a claim might not be worth it.
  • Too much trouble - It's true that dealing with insurance companies can be more trouble than it's worth and making comparatively small claims might involve more paperwork and phone calls than a customer wants.

Whether you choose to claim for damage to your own vehicle or not, it's important that you still contact your insurance company to let them know the car's been in an accident. Any customer who doesn't might be in breach of the policy's terms and conditions.

If a customer doesn't wish to claim, they just have to say so during that call.

If an accident occurs

It can be difficult to stay clear-headed during an accident, so review this section now and perhaps save it to refer to in the case of an accident.

There are two elements to this: what to do at the scene of the accident and what to do afterwards.

At the accident

The first thing to remember is to stay calm. It's natural to be upset or disturbed by a car accident but focus on the practical elements and get all the information necessary to make a claim - if you decide to.

Remember, too, that it's a crime not to stop at the scene of an accident involving another car, property, person or animal. A fine's likely if you're caught, and a possible prison sentence of up to six months.

  1. Do the emergency services need to be called? If the accident is blocking the road or someone is injured, the police and ambulance services may need to be called. If there are no injuries and the cars are in a safe place, you don't need to call 999 immediately but an accident must be reported within 24 hours using the non-emergency 101 number. However, if you suspect the other driver is under the influence of drink or drugs or you think the collision may have been deliberate, call the police immediately.
  2. Check injuries and damage. Ideally, before speaking to the other driver, do a basic assessment of the damage caused by the accident. Check yourself and passengers for injuries and have a look at the car to see how bad the damage is.
  3. Do not accept blame. It's vitally important that you don't admit to any blame at the scene of the accident. If you do, the driver of the other vehicle might be able to use it against you later and it could complicate any insurance claim. Even saying sorry could be taken as an admission of guilt, so be police without using the 's' word.
  4. Exchange details. You'll need to exchange basic details with the other driver such as registration number, name, contact number, address and insurance company (and police number if they have it handy).
  5. Check for witnesses. It's worth speaking to people in the immediate area who might have seen what happened, so ask for their details too if possible. Remember, though, some people don't want to get involved and, while it might be frustrating, you can't force them to confirm they witnessed anything.
  6. Make notes and take photos. Before you leave the scene, take photos of your car, their car and anything else that might've been involved in the accident (such as a lamp post or bin that was hit due to the collision). Make notes about the circumstances of the accident ready to pass on to your insurer later, and don't forget to note the location and weather conditions, along with details about the car and the accident itself.

Much of this assumes that the driver of the other vehicle stopped at the scene. If they don't, try to get their vehicle registration before they drive away and double-check for witnesses as they may have got details you didn't catch.

After the accident

There's no obligation to call your motor insurance company at the scene of the accident, but you should contact them as soon as possible. Within your insurance policy, there'll be details of exactly how long you have to do this but calling them sooner rather than later is always best.

That said, it's important to be calm when you make the call, so if that means taking a little extra time to compose yourself, that's fine.

Prepare for the call by making clear notes about what happened. This ensures you don't forget anything when you speak to the insurance company and you'll have all the right details on hand. Also, have your policy documents on hand to speed up the process.

Remember, while your insurance company is on your side, you don't want to mislead them, even accidentally, as this could result in an allegation of insurance fraud. Just explain what happened accurately and concisely, giving details of the other driver if there was one.

Once you confirm you wish to make a claim on your insurance, the company will send a claim form that must be completed. Be careful to include any supporting evidence such as photographs and witness details to speed up the process.

Even so, making an insurance claim isn't a rapid or straightforward process, even if the repairs to the vehicle are relatively minor.


Insurance companies have a list of approved mechanics, so it isn't simply a case of taking your car to the nearest garage for repair. You must wait until you know which garages you're allowed to take the vehicle too - if you don't, your insurance may be invalidated and your insurer may refuse to pay out.

Some insurers will be happy to work with unapproved repairers, but they may require estimates before they consent to any work being done to make sure it isn't more than the general market rate.

If the vehicle is repaired to a better condition than it was in before the accident, you may be expected to pay the extra repair costs. Be sure to talk to your mechanic before they start work to check the scope of the job.

Write offs

Cars that are unable to be repaired economically are written-off, and insurers will offer the market value of the vehicle at the time of the accident as compensation. For many vehicle owners, this will be markedly below what they initially paid for the car as vehicles depreciate over time. However, it should match what would have been paid if the car had been sold on the day of the accident.

If you don't believe the valuation is fair, you can challenge this by showing prices of similar cars in your local area or paying for an independent valuation, but your insurer may not budge on the valuation.

Before the car is sent to the scrapyard, your insurer will need your consent. If they scrap the car but do not settle the insurance claim in your favour, you can be reimbursed the salvage value of the car.

A note on older cars - sometimes claiming for accidents involving older vehicles can result in the car being written-off when you'd rather it wasn't

Uninsured drivers

Being hit by an uninsured driver complicates matters, but if you have comprehensive car insurance, you're still able to claim on your insurance. However, your no-claims discount might be affected.

It's also possible the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) can help. To be successful in a claim, the accident must have been reported to the police within five days (14 if there was a personal injury element).

The actual claim to the MIB must be made within three years, which is why there are so many personal injury lawyers advertising to ask whether you have had a car accident that wasn't your fault within that timeframe.

If the driver of a vehicle is unknown or untraceable, claiming via the MIB can be a little more difficult. A report must still be made to police, although a direct claim to the MIB must take place within nine months. An excess of £300 may be payable by you if you make a claim relating to property damage or personal injury if the driver is completely untraceable.

It's worth remembering that the MIB don't just rubberstamp claims - they thoroughly investigate and there is no guarantee they'll find in your favour just because the other driver happened to be uninsured.

If a car is stolen

The important thing to bear in mind when a car is stolen is that it must be reported to both the police and your insurance company immediately.

To contact the police, call 101 and ask to be put through to your local police station. You'll need details of the car including the registration number, make, model and colour, and the police will inform the DVLA on your behalf. The police will supply a crime reference number for you to pass on to your insurance company.

Again, you'll be instructed by your insurance company how to go about making a claim, but one of the key things to remember is that when an insurance company settles a claim for a stolen vehicle, it's essentially been sold to them. You'll need to inform the DVLA in the usual manner, including a copy of the letter received from the insurance company and the logbook will be passed to the insurance company.

As mentioned above, if you don't feel you're being offered the market price for your vehicle, you can challenge this, but you'll need evidence such as the sale prices of similar cars.

If a claim is rejected

Insurance claims aren't always settled satisfactorily first time around, but you should only contest if you feel your claim has been unjustly rejected.

Firstly, check whether your insurance company has acted in accordance with the policy by rereading your policy note and paying close attention to the list of exclusions. It could be that your specific claim is not appropriate under their rules, or it could be that they've seemingly breached their rules.

If you're still unsatisfied, contact the complaints department formally by either letter or phone and work through their complaint procedure to find out where you go next.


The golden rule when you're wondering how to make a car insurance claim is to remain calm throughout the process and be clear at every junction about your rights.

Even a small car accident can be upsetting but remember never to admit liability at the roadside and be as accurate in your notes and recollections as you can be. If you decide not to make a claim, it's still important to inform your insurer of the incident.

Read our guide to getting cheaper car insurance or learned whether women can still get cheaper car insurance.

Search for a new car insurance deal with the free Choose comparison tool.


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