The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission. Why trust us?

How to make a claim on your car insurance

Want cheap car insurance? Compare quotes from over 160 providers
In partnership with

Hopefully, you’ll never need to make a claim on your car insurance – but if you do, this guide will tell you everything you need to know.

You might need to make a claim on your car insurance policy if your car has been involved in an accident, stolen, damaged or destroyed. It’s best to speak to your insurance company as soon as possible, explain what happened and get your claim underway.

What to do at the scene of an accident

If you’re involved in an accident, the key is not to panic. Stay calm and work through the following steps.

  • Stop your car and turn off the engine – it’s a criminal offence not to do this. Switch your hazard lights on
  • Make sure you and any passengers are in a safe place, away from the road and traffic
  • Call an ambulance if anyone is injured. Administer first aid if you know what to do, or look for someone with medical training, such as a passing doctor or nurse
  • Call the police if the road is blocked or you suspect foul play of any sort, such as if you think the accident was deliberate or the other driver appeared to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Don’t apologise for the accident or admit responsibility. Doing so can suggest you were at fault when that might not be the case. An admission might affect your insurance claim
  • Share your name, address and insurance details with the driver(s) of the other vehicle(s) involved. You need to do this by law. You should also collect their details
  • Ascertain whether the other driver is the registered owner of the vehicle. If they aren’t, find out who the owner is. For example, it might be a company car or a lorry firm
  • Gather details of any passengers in the other car, plus any injuries they claim to have suffered
  • Ask around to see if there were any witnesses to the accident. Get their names and phone numbers if possible
  • If it’s safe to do so, take photos of the scene of the accident, preferably before either vehicle is moved, as this will help show how the collision occurred
  • Note any damage to either vehicle and where on the vehicle it occurred (note that the driver’s side of a car is known as “offside”, and the passenger’s side is the “nearside”)
  • Take photos of the damage to both vehicles and the other vehicle’s registration number. Write down the make and model of the other car
  • Note the date and exact time of the accident, as well as the driving conditions (e.g. if it was raining)
Compare Car Insurance Quotes
Compare quotes from over 160 providers to find the best deal
In partnership with MoneySuperMarket

What to do after the accident: Making a claim

Your insurer will ask you for the following information. You might provide this online or over the phone.

  • Your policy number
  • Your vehicle’s registration number
  • Details of the other vehicle, such as the registration number
  • Details of the other driver, such as their name, phone number, address and insurance information 
  • Details about what happened, such as where and when the accident occurred and what the weather conditions were
  • Crime reference number, if applicable (e.g. in the event of a theft)
  • Photos of the damage to your car and the other vehicle

Most insurers request that you contact them within 24 or 48 hours after an accident. However, there may be some leeway on this, for example, if you’re injured and in hospital.


Personal injury claims can be made up to three years after an accident.

How long does a car insurance claim take?

Car insurance claims can take a week to several months. How quickly the claim will be settled depends on the following factors:

  • How serious the incident was and the number of vehicles involved
  • Whether any party disputes what happened
  • What evidence you gave to the insurance company
  • Whether the other driver was insured

What can I do if my car insurance claim is rejected?

Your car insurance claim could be rejected or declined for various reasons, including the following:

  • Not being covered. This might be the case if you told your insurer that you only use your car for social, domestic and pleasure purposes but you used it to commute to work and had an accident
  • Non-disclosure, such as not telling your insurer about modifications to your car, a change of address, or declarable medical conditions
  • You don’t have a valid Ministry of Transport (MOT) test for the car
  • You were negligent (e.g. you left your car unlocked and the keys in the ignition or drove under the influence of drugs or alcohol)

If your claim has been rejected and you think this was unfair, you should:

  • Double-check the information you gave to the insurer when you took out insurance
  • Check your policy terms and conditions
  • Complain to your insurer
  • Contact the Financial Ombudsman

Do I have to make a claim if I have an accident?

You don’t have to make an insurance claim if you have a car accident. With low-value claims, you might be better off paying for repairs yourself. 

However, you should still tell your insurer about any accident you’re involved in.

Why do I need to tell my insurance provider about an accident?

You should report every accident to your insurer, even if you’re not making a claim. When you contact your insurer, make it clear that this is for information only and you don’t wish to claim. You do this in case the other driver makes a claim without your knowledge. 

Failure to report an accident can lead to your policy being declared void. This could result in you being uninsured in the event of a later accident, which is against the law.

What information will my insurance provider need if I make a claim?

Immediately after the accident, your insurer will need information about the time and date of the incident, what happened and the other driver’s details. You should also pass on details of any witnesses. 

You might later pass on other information regarding:

  • Your injuries and medical treatment
  • Any time you’ve taken off work because of the accident
  • Other expenses incurred due to the accident

Will making a claim affect the cost of my insurance?

Yes, making a claim will affect the cost of your car insurance in the future. 

At-fault claims will have a more significant impact than a non-fault accident, but both will mean higher insurance costs in the future, as your insurer will view you as a higher risk after you’ve had an accident.

Get Cheap Car Insurance
Get a great deal on your car insurance by comparing over 160 providers
In partnership with MoneySuperMarket

Will making a claim affect my no-claims discount?

A no-claims discount (NCD) is built up each year that you don’t make a claim on your car insurance. If you make a claim, your NCD will be reduced, although you won’t necessarily lose it all. If you’ve paid for NCD protection, you might not see your premium increase much, if at all.

Frequently asked questions about car insurance claims

If you have fully comprehensive cover, you can claim for the following:

  • The cost of repairing your car if the accident was your fault
  • Damage to other vehicles and other people’s injuries
  • Injuries to yourself and your passengers
  • Theft of your car
  • Damage/destruction to your car caused by fire

If you have third-party fire and theft, you can claim for the following:

  • Damage to other vehicles and other people’s injuries
  • Theft of your car
  • Damage/destruction of your car caused by fire

If you have third-party only, you can claim for the following:

  • Damage to other vehicles and other people’s injuries

If you’re claiming on the other driver’s insurance, you’ll be able to claim for damage to your car and your injuries. If your policy includes legal expenses, you may be able to claim for uninsured losses. These might include the following:

  • Alternative transport while your car is being repaired
  • Loss of earnings
  • Personal injuries 
  • The excess on your policy

If you have comprehensive insurance, you can make a claim if you’re hit by an uninsured or unidentified driver. However, this usually means losing your no-claims discount, even if the accident wasn’t your fault.

If you have third-party fire and theft or third-party-only insurance, you’ll need to claim compensation via the Motor Insurers’ Bureau. This is a non-profit organisation that helps road users with claims against uninsured or untraced drivers. 

All car insurance claims and non-claim incidents are recorded on the Claims and Underwriting Exchange (CUE) database.

Details of claims are stored by CUE for six years. Insurers can check this database when setting insurance premiums, so they’re likely to find out if you lied about past claims to keep insurance costs down.

emma lunn

Emma Lunn

Money Writer

Emma Lunn is a multi-award winning journalist who specialises in personal finance and consumer issues. 

With more than 18 years’ experience in personal finance, Emma has covered topics including mortgages, first-time buyers, leasehold, banking, debt, budgeting, broadband, energy, pensions and investments. 

Emma’s one of the most prolific freelance personal finance journalists with a back catalogue of work in newspapers such as The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, the Mail on Sunday, and the Mirror. 

As a freelancer she has also completed various in-house contracts at The Guardian, The Independent, Mortgage Solutions, Orange, and Moneywise. She also writes regularly for specialist magazines and websites such as Property Hub, Mortgage Strategy and 

She has a real passion for helping people learn about money – especially when many people are struggling to get by in today’s challenging economic climate – and prides herself on simplifying complex subjects.