When you apply for car insurance, you’re almost certainly going to be asked if you’ve had an accident or made a claim within the past 5 years - regardless of who was at fault.
If you’ve caused an accident, you probably won’t be surprised to discover your premium is often increased – but what happens if you’ve been the victim in an accident or if you’ve had a previous accident but not made a claim? And what are the figures involved?
At-fault insurance claims
If an accident is recorded as being your fault, it will be noted on your insurance history using the term ‘at-fault’ – essentially highlighting you as being a higher-risk driver.
This is understandable if carelessness or poor judgement has caused the accident – but unfortunately, ‘at-fault’ doesn’t always mean the accident or claim really was your fault. For instance, if your car has been vandalised or someone’s crashed into it then left the scene, your insurance company might not be able to reclaim the cost of repairs. Sadly, this lack of culprit often officially leaves you as the at-fault party.
Non-fault discount claims
If your insurance company decide an accident was not your fault, it will still be recorded on your insurance history – but it will be noted as a ‘non-fault’ claim. Usually, a non-fault claim is recorded when your insurance company manage to recoup all of the cost associated with repairing your car.
You can be forgiven for thinking that a non-fault claim won’t increase your renewal cost – but, unfortunately, it often will.
The reason? Well, many insurance companies think that drivers who are involved in a non-fault accident are more likely to have another accident – and an increased likelihood of an accident almost always leads to an increased insurance cost.
For example – if someone drives into your vehicle while you’re travelling through a busy junction on the way to work, you’ll probably still have to make that same journey again. So, even though it’s not your fault, your insurance company will decide that you’re a slightly higher risk.
It might not seem fair – but insurance companies base their premiums on statistics, and if there’s a link between non-fault accidents and future claims, they will reflect that in the quote you receive.
What about if I don’t make a claim?
Sometimes, if there’s been an accident and only minor damage has been done to the vehicles involved, it’s tempting to “avoid getting insurance companies involved” - with the person responsible directly paying for repairs.
The thing is, while this might seem like a hassle-free option, you may still find that it increases your insurance. Why? Well, you’ll still be legally required to declare it as an accident when you renew your insurance – so it will still be viewed as an accident in your driving history.
Can I avoid declaring an accident if insurance companies weren’t involved?
Quite simply – no. When you get a quote for insurance, companies don’t ask if you’ve “made any claims in the last 5 years” – they ask if you’ve “had any accidents (regardless of fault) in the past 5 years”. There’s a big difference – so if you avoid declaring an accident, you could find your insurance void further down the line.
If you’re wondering how the company would ever find out – it comes down to the cross-references that companies do with one another and through insurance databases. The other driver(s) involved are likely to have declared the bump – which could lead to an insurer deciding you’ve been dishonest when you’ve applied for a quote.
On average, a non-fault accident on your driving history is likely to put your premium up by less than £10 each month. It might be £10 you’d rather spend elsewhere – but it’s significantly cheaper than finding yourself in legal trouble if you’re in an accident and your insurance is found to be void.
What about no claims discount (NCD)?
So, all this talk of accidents is irrelevant if you’ve got a solid no claims discount history - right?
Again, unfortunately not. Your no claims discount is exactly what it says – a “discount” – so it’s actually applied to your quoted price after your driving history has been taken into account. Since you will still have to declare any accidents you’ve had, your premium will almost certainly be affected – although your NCD discount will probably get you some money off.
The good news is, it’s possible to ‘protect’ your no claims discount – so even if you do have an accident, you’ll keep your NCB and still get a discount knocked off your premium.
How much does your insurance go up after your first accident?
In truth, the price increases you can expect from UK insurance companies after a claim might not be as shocking as you expect. In 2018, a major insurance comparison study showed that at-fault drivers can expect their premium to go up an average of £136 after an accident – whereas non-fault drivers will see an average increase of £102.
Given that most people pay their insurance on a monthly basis, that would be an increase of £11.30 per month if the accident is deemed to be your fault, or £8.50 per month if you’re not to blame. This is before any interest is added of course – but it might not be quite the eye-watering amount you were expecting.
Of course, figures will be different depending on your driving history, the nature of the accident, and whether there are any criminal charges relating to the incident – but an increase is far preferable to the legal action that can be brought if you’re found to have neglected to mention a previous accident.