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How do car insurance claims work?

If you’re lucky, you’ll never have an accident as a driver – but, for millions of us every year, that luck gives way, and we end up having a bump.

So, what happens when you make an insurance claim? Who do you need to call? How do car accident insurance claims work?

At, we work with best insurers in the UK – so we can tell you exactly what to expect, from beginning to end. 

Dealing with insurance after an accident

Hopefully, you’re not reading this immediately after having an accident – but, if you are, try not to panic.

The official Ask The Police service gives detailed guidance around what to do if you’ve been involved in a road traffic accident of any kind – even if you’ve just bumped a sign or bollard. 

Taking the blame

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to assume you were to blame for the accident – or judge someone else to be at fault. Rather than accept or attribute blame at this stage, focus on collecting the facts – as mistakenly accepting that you were at fault can cause problems and complications down the line.

Collecting/providing important information

Of course, everyone’s safety is an absolute priority – but assuming everyone is okay, you’re legally obliged to give your name and address, the vehicle owner’s name and address, and your car’s registration number to anyone who might need it. This could include witnesses to the event – and will always include the driver any other vehicle involved.

As well as these details, it’s useful to make a note of any passengers’ names, along with contact details of any witnesses. You may wish to take some photos of the incident and the surrounding scene too – if it’s safe to do so. Hopefully, you won’t need these details – but if there’s any kind of dispute, they can be useful.

As well as noting down this information, it’s worth collecting some further information too, including:

  • Details of any injuries to anyone involved
  • A list of damage that’s been done to cars and property
  • The make, model, and colour of any vehicles involved
  • Some notes or pictures that show the weather conditions
  • The exact location of the accident
  • The date and the time that the incident took place

It’s good to take a note of these things on your phone – then you’ve got them to refer back to after the adrenaline has settled.

Talking to your insurance company

t’s not necessary to contact your insurance company’s claims line immediately – but you should do it as soon as possible. Many insurers ask that you call within 24 hours of an accident – but since claims lines are often open 24 hours a day, it’s better to do it sooner rather than later, to avoid any complications.

To prepare for the call, you should try to have all the information you’ve collected to hand – as well as a detailed description of the event. It sometimes helps to write this down, so you can be certain you’re not missing anything out.
It’s vitally important that you stick to facts when you report an accident. If you’re not accurate or you purposefully mislead your insurer, you could be guilty of fraud.

If you have courtesy car cover as part of your insurance, your claims advisor will often explain how to go about getting it at this stage – keeping you motoring.

Claims form

When you’ve given a detailed account of what’s happened and answered your insurer’s questions, they will send a claims form that you’ll need to complete and return to your cover provider. They’ll ask you to send supporting information with this too – which is where the evidence you’ve gathered will come in handy. 

It’s worth taking a copy of your form before you send it – and making sure you have duplicates of any supporting evidence you send. It’s unlikely to go missing, but it’s good to have a backup just in case.

Hearing back from your insurer

Don’t expect to hear back from your insurance company quickly. Even the most straightforward-seeming claim can actually be complicated behind the scenes – so it’s not uncommon to wait weeks.

Even if it’s tempting or convenient to get the process moving and book your car in for repair – don’t, it’s important to follow your insurer’s procedure exactly; otherwise you could find yourself liable for the repair yourself.

If your car has been damaged in the accident and you have fully comprehensive cover, an assessor from your insurer will review the damage and estimate the work that needs to be done. At this stage, you’ll be given a list of garages you can take your car to for the work to be carried out. 

How do total loss car insurance claims work?

Of course, it’s only going to be worth having your car booked into a garage for repair if your insurance company decide it’s economically viable to do so. If they decide it’s not – the car will be considered a total loss and ‘written off’ by your cover provider.

Don’t be alarmed if this is the case. Even if the damage looks minor on the outside of the car, damage to the chassis or other hidden components can be enormously expensive to repair – and, if the cost of the repair represents around 60% of the overall value of the car, your provider will often decide it doesn’t make sense to carry out the work.

If your car is a total loss, the process up to the claim’s assessor visiting and inspecting your car will be the same – but afterwards, your insurance company will contact you to discuss paying out what they deem to be the market value of the car. 

Is it worth reporting the accident to your insurer?

It’s not uncommon in minor road traffic accidents to hear people say it’s “not worth” reporting the accident to an insurer – but, if this crosses your mind, it’s vital that you know where you stand legally. 

The terms of your insurance will clearly state that your insurer must be informed about any accident involving you or your vehicle. Don’t misunderstand, this doesn’t mean you have to claim for damage done – but you do need to let them know; as not reporting it could lead to your policy being cancelled, which makes getting insurance again very difficult.

Whether or not you claim for damage done is another subject altogether – and, if the cost of repairing the damage is less than the excess you’d need to pay, then it might make sense to avoid a claim. For instance, if you have a cracked headlight that will cost £200 to repair, it wouldn’t make sense to claim through your insurance company if your excess means you’re expected to pay the first £400 of any repair.

Avoiding a claim will keep your no claims bonus intact – although it could still mean your insurance cost goes up.
Wrapping the claim up

When your insurance company has either paid for your repair or paid the market value of your car, your claim is complete. 

In some instances, you may receive further information from the other party’s insurance company (especially if the accident is deemed to be your fault) – often detailed a personal injury claim. Your insurance company should also receive a copy of this letter – and don’t panic; they’ll handle the process again, usually without getting you involved any further. 

Other related FAQs

Looking for more related content to this? We’ve picked a selection of related topics that you may find helpful

Put simply, the reason why car insurance is high is because the cost of claims is high. As a result, insurers increase premiums to protect themselves and make a profit.

Car insurance can go up for a number of reasons – especially if you’ve had an accident or received a fixed penalty in the last year. If you haven’t, you might find you’re just getting a poor deal when your deal automatically renews – so don’t be afraid to shop around until you’ve got a better price.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to accurately calculate how much your car insurance is going to cost without getting a range of quotes. As well as looking at national driving statistics, insurers will seek a huge amount of information about you and your vehicle before deciding on a personalised price.

In the UK, every car is allocated an insurance group. This helps insurance companies determine the cost of cover. The groups run from 1, which offers the cheapest premiums, to 50, which offers the highest. The cheapest car insurance group is therefore group 1.

You can be insured to drive a car on a policy in someone else’s name. This can be done by being a named driver on someone else's policy either permanently or for a short period.

Generally speaking, your car insurance covers your vehicle and damage that you may cause to other vehicles and motorists. Depending on the type of policy, it can also cover a range of additional extras, such as medical expenses and breakdown assistance

Yes, you can transfer your car insurance policy. Simply contact your existing insurer to ask. There may be a price difference and a fee to amend the policy.

Insurers generally do not offer the facility to put your car insurance on hold – and cancelling and restarting your car insurance cover rarely makes financial sense. If you’ve got a reason for needing a break in cover, talk to a specialist company who cater for your circumstances – like classic car insurers or student policy providers.

If you make a claim on your insurance policy, car insurance excess is the amount you will pay towards that claim. There are two types of car insurance excess – one compulsory, the other voluntary. The compulsory excess that your insurance company sets is the amount you must pay towards any repair done to your vehicle if you cause an accident. The voluntary excess is an optional amount on top of this – which means you’ll pay more towards repairs – but your annual premium price will come down in exchange.

Unfortunately, making any kind of insurance claim will often increase your renewal premium – even if the accident wasn’t your fault.