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Vehicle insurance – making a claim if you’re in an accident

If your car is in an accident, you may want to make a claim on your motor insurance. This page tells you what you need to know before you make a claim. And what you can do if the driver is uninsured or won't give you their details.

Making a claim if you're in an accident

If you're in an accident you should:

  • not admit at the scene that it was your fault
  • exchange names and other details with the other drivers and get details of any independent witnesses. If someone refuses to give you their details your insurer may be able to trace them through their vehicle registration number
  • tell your insurer about the accident straightaway, even if you don't want to make a claim
  • if someone is injured, show your insurance certificate or cover note to the police. If you can't do this at the scene take the documents to the police station within seven days
  • take photographs that you may be able to later use as evidence if you need to make a claim.

If you have comprehensive insurance

If you have a comprehensive policy you should claim from your own insurer, but you may lose your no claims bonus if the insurer can't recover the money from the other driver's insurer.

You can still claim from the other driver's insurer for any injuries or losses not covered by your own policy. These are called uninsured losses and can cover alternative transport while your own vehicle is being repaired, loss of earnings, personal injuries and the excess on your policy.

You should keep any losses to a minimum and keep evidence of them. If you need to hire another vehicle it should normally be similar to your own vehicle.

To make a claim, get a form from your insurer or write to the other driver or their insurer, giving details of the accident and the other driver's policy number. Tell your insurer about any independent witnesses and send them witness statements if you can. If you used a broker or agent to buy your policy they may be able to help you. Make sure you keep copies of all documents and letters.

If you have third party insurance

You should make a claim against the other driver and allow the insurer to decide who is responsible for the accident. If they say you are responsible you’ll have to pay for repairs to your own vehicle.

To claim from the other driver tell them in writing that you want to claim from them. If they were driving a company vehicle, also let the company know what's happened. You should tell your own insurer that you have done this. The other driver should report the accident to their own insurer. You can find out if the other driver has insurance by contacting the Motor Insurance Database

If you've been in an accident and you receive a letter or claim form from the other driver or their insurer forward this to your own insurer.

If the accident wasn’t your fault

If the accident wasn’t your fault you may be able to use a credit hire company rather than your insurance company.

If the driver is uninsured or can’t be identified

You can claim on your own insurance if you have comprehensive cover. The Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) may also be able to settle your claim if the driver is uninsured. This includes cases where the driver has broken their policy conditions.

You won't be able to claim if you are an injured passenger of an uninsured driver and you knew, or should have known, that they weren't insured.

Repairing your vehicle

You shouldn't get your car repaired without your insurer's permission since they may want to send someone to inspect it and you may have to use an approved repairer.

If you are asked to get your own estimates you may have to ask your insurer for their approval before going ahead with repairs.

You may also have to pay some of the repair cost yourself if your vehicle is in a better condition after repairs than it was beforehand.

If your insurer decides that it is not economical to repair your vehicle they should offer you the vehicle's market value. They normally then take the vehicle from you but you may be able to negotiate to keep it. This is known as an insurance write off.

Top tips

A car may be called a write-off or total loss by an insurance company under the following categories:

·A: a vehicle which should have been totally crushed, including all its spare parts

·B: a vehicle from which parts may be salvaged but the body shell should have been crushed and the car should never return to the road

·C: a vehicle that can be repaired, but where the insurer's repairs cost more than the value of the car before the accident

·D: a vehicle that can be repaired, where the insurer's repairs don't cost more than the value of the car before the accident.

If your car is a write-off

If your insurer decides that it is not economical to repair your car they should offer you the car's market value at the time of the accident. This is known as an insurance write off. They normally then take the car from you but you may be able to negotiate to keep it.

If you don’t agree the amount you’re offered is fair, you’ll need to give the insurer or insurance broker evidence to show your car is worth more. For example, you could give prices of similar cars for sale in the local area. You can also get a valuation from an independent qualified engineer, if you wanted to pay for this.

Once the claim is settled, your insurer will keep the damaged car. If you want to keep it instead, you can negotiate with the insurer. The insurer will only let you keep the car if it’s possible to repair it to make it roadworthy again. In this case, money will be taken off the amount you get, to cover the cost of the salvage value of the car.

Your insurer should get your consent to send your written-off car to the scrapyard for sale or to be broken into parts. If they don’t get your consent, then scrap the car and decide not to settle your claim, you are entitled to claim the salvage value of the car.

Minor damage to older cars

If you have an accident in an older car with minor damage, you may decide not to claim on your insurance in case the car is written off. Then you can get the car repaired yourself and keep it.

If you do claim on your insurance and your car is declared a write off, you could ask the insurance company how they work this out. For example, some insurers will write off a car if the cost of the repairs is as little as 60% of the value of the car. In some cases you may be able to claim on your insurance and avoid the car being written off by negotiating with your insurance company. You can negotiate to get your car valued at a higher price than first offered by the insurance company. You may also be able to find a garage that charges less for the repairs than the insurer's approved garage. The insurance company will have to give their approval before you go ahead with the repairs from another garage.

Next steps

Other useful information

Find out more about making a claim against an uninsured driver from the Motor Insurers Bureau at: www.mib.org.uk.

Tel: 0845 165 2800