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claiming on your motor insurance policy
What do you need to do?
When should you report an incident to your insurer?
The sooner the better. Typically your policy booklet will point out that you need to report any incident (whether or not there was any damage and whether or not you intend to claim on your own policy for any damage to your car) within three months. If you don’t you may well be asked why.
Insurance companies have a reputation for not paying for anything. But you will be surprised what you can claim for if you have a comprehensive policy. For instance you will be covered if:
a) You put the wrong fuel into your car.
b) rodents chew through the wiring of your car or make a nest in a car seat.
c) there are cigarette burns in a car seat.
d) water leaked into the car through a window seal.
e) bird droppings have damaged your paintwork.
f) you didn't apply your handbrake properly and your car rolls down a hill and hits something.
g) you drive through a puddle and its deeper than you thought.
Word of warning though:
You cant be the 1st and 3rd party in a claim:
If you have two cars and you are the owner and registered keeper of both and the policies for these cars are in your name, you wont be able to claim against yourself if you crash one of them into the other.
This means that although you will be able to claim for the damage to both cars you will have to register a fault claim on each policy.
Sometimes one crash can mean two claims
You are driving. You hit a car and as a result you spin into wall. That’s one claim. But…you are driving. You hit a car and then you turn the wheel to try to get clear and as a consequence you hit a wall. that’s two claims. Or, you are trying park your car in a narrow space. You scrap the side of your car against a wall. To stop the damage getting worse you put your car into reverse and hit a bollard. Again, that’s two claims. That is because in turning the wheel or reversing your car you made a separate (new) movement that caused the 2nd area of damage.
Only accident related damage is covered:
Be sure to tell your insurance company exactly what the damage is and how it happened. If you tell your insurer that there is damage to your front right wing that is all that will be repaired. The damaged front bumper wont be repaired if you never mentioned it.
When you report an incident to your insurer be clear about:
When it happened
Where it happened
What happened... exactly.
Details of the other vehicles involved and details of the drivers.
Damage to the cars/property.
Injury to anyone
This list is not exhaustive but they are the most important for your insurer to establish liability (who is at fault) early on and deal with the claim accordingly. If the accident is your fault (or even if you are only partially at fault)
1) Two years of any NCB you have will be deducted.
2) You will be required to pay your excess. (But if the claim is settled as a partial fault claim you will get a proportion of the excess reimbursed to you.
Only after the claim has been settled in your favour as a non-fault claim will your NCB be reinstated and the excess you paid be reimbursed. But if the accident circumstances are such that you are clearly not at fault and you are able to supply all the 3rd party details then your insurer will in many cases waive the excess from the very start and nor will your NCB be affected.
Getting your car repaired.
In the meantime your insurer will make arrangements to get your car into a garage for repairs. They will always recommend an approved repairer who will call you to arrange the collection of the car (if required) or at least arrange a booking in date. If your car can still be driven (and that is your decision) they will suggest you bring your car in for an estimate so they know what needs to be done and order any parts before hand that might be needed. In some cases an approved repairer will have what as called
‘self-authorisation’. this means that the garage has permission from the insurance company to authorise repairs if the cost is (for example) under £400. But you don't need to use an approved repairer if you don’t want to. But if you do use your own garage you must get an estimate for the cost of the repairs to your own car. An engineer appointed by your insurance company will then be sent to look at the damage to your car and he will then visit the garage to discuss the estimate they will have prepared. It can be a lengthy process. Using an approved repairer is quicker and easier. Basically you leave everything to your insurance company and they will take responsibility for everything that happens. If there have been any delays in getting repairs underway for example or you are not satisfied with the repairs that have been done then you can expect your insurance company to take action to resolve it for you.
If however you have used your own garage and you are not happy with the service you are getting from them then your insurer is under no obligation to offer any assistance. The job of your insurer (at its most basic) is simply to pay for the costs of the claim and agree with the other parties concerned what to pay. So, the engineer will have agreed costs with your garage and that is the end of their involvement as far as they are concerned it is not their responsibility to check whether or not they are doing a good job or not. If you have a problem with a garage you chose then you need to deal with it.
When people get a quote for car insurance and decide to accept it one of the ‘costs’ that they often fail to consider is the excess on their policy. If you do need to make a claim on your insurance policy the excess will be applied. The excess on your policy is the contribution that you will be required to make towards the cost of the repairs of your car. If the accident wasn’t your fault this excess will be reimbursed to you (sometimes though, if the circumstances are clearly not your fault and you are able to supply all the details of the party who is at fault then your excess may be waived). Otherwise be prepared to pay your excess to the garage repairing your car once the repairs have been completed.
There are three kinds of excess that may be applied.
a) Compulsory excess : The vast majority of motor policies will automatically have a compulsory excess applied to them usually £100 or £200.
b) Voluntary excess : in order to get a reduction in your premium you can increase the level of excess on your policy.
c) Driver excess : typically applied to young drivers under 25 and to inexperienced drivers. But also to drivers who are a higher risk. Driver who have for instance two speeding convictions on their licence or who have had a conviction for using a mobile phone will have a driver excess applied to them. In the event of a claim where these excess need to be applied they are all added up. So in a worst case scenario if a young driver has a fault claim all three excess; compulsory, voluntary and the driver excess would all apply.
People sometimes think that if they have an accident the excess on their policy is the contribution they have to make towards the cost of the repairs of the other car. It's not.It only applies to any repairs to your car
In other words, if you are at fault for an accident but there is no damage to your car (or at least none that you think is worth claiming for) then you don’ t have to pay any excess. All that will happen then is that your insurer will pay for the costs of the repair to the car you damaged plus any hire charges etc and you will lose 2 NCB when your policy falls due for renewal.
But suppose there is damage to your car and you decide to make a claim on your policy to have it repaired. You will have to pay the excess in full … but only if the cost of the repair exceed your excess. In other words, your excess in £400 but the repairs only came to £300. You just pay £300. But if the cost is £401 then you pay your full excess to the garage that repaired your car and your insurance company pays £1.
No Claims Bonus (NCB).
For every year that you do not make a claim on your policy (and no one makes a claim for damages against you) you will be awarded a years No Claims Discount (NCD) which will mean a discount on your policy premium when it falls due for renewal. You will be able to earn a maximum of five years NCB which will be worth a total of 65% (70% if you are over 70). So even though you can in theory have 30 years NCB (because you been claim free for 30 years) the discounts available to you will end after 5 years.
But once you have reported an incident your insurer will automatically deduct two years NCB from your policy until it has been confirmed by the 3rd party insurer that they are accepting full liability.
In many cases you do have the option of protecting your NCB once you have reached at least four years NCB. What this means is that if you have a fault claim on your policy you wont loose any of your NCB. However, people don’t actually always get the discounts they expect. That’s simply because your insurer will add what’s called a ‘loading’ to the claim which simply means that they will increase your premium that way since they can’t increase your premium by deducting two years from the NCB you have accumulated.