How to stop car insurance firms swerving claims
Here is how to make sure your insurance firm doesn't worm its way out of picking up the tab after you've had an accident.
One trap that's easily overlooked is whether you've made any changes to your car or its use since you last spoke with your insurer. New seat covers wouldn't be relevant here, but a new exhaust might.
And if "commuting" is listed as the purpose of ownership, but you had taken your car on holiday, the insurer may be able to use this to bin your claim.
What you need to know
When insurers are talking to you, they'll want facts that prove your claim, filed as soon as possible after the incident. Ideally, according to car insurance comparer Confused.com, this should be within 24 hours. Insurance companies may set a limit beyond which you can't make a claim.
Tell your insurer the registration number of your car and any other vehicles involved, as well as their make, model and colour.
Get names, addresses and contact details of any other drivers and passengers, and any witnesses, such as passers-by. Check phone numbers are correct by calling the numbers given.
Give them yours too. Not leaving details can mean a maximum £5,000 fine, six months in jail, or 10 points on your licence.
If you've hit a parked car, leave your details under the window wiper, and report the incident to your insurer.
Who actually owns the other vehicles? Find out their names? If company vehicles, what is the business name? Ask for their policy number. You can also look this up, using the Motor Insurance Database.
Note down the exact time and place of the incident, including street names, and the number of the nearest home or business.
Take note of any injuries to yourself or others. People sometimes claim non-existent injuries afterwards, hoping for compensation.
Want CHEAPER car insurance?
Here are six ways to lower your premium. Your hip pocket will thank you.
Only pay for what you need - cover less mileage and drive less. Do you need to drive to work?
Pay an annual premium, not monthly (the rate is usually lower if you pay all at once).
Boost vehicle security with alarms, immobilisers or locks.
Shop around regularly - add-ons like windscreen insurance might be cheaper separately.
Consider a black box (prove you're safer).
Trade in your car for something cheaper - perhaps older or smaller.
Photograph any damage to vehicles if you can. If the car was stolen, exactly when and where did you last see it, and what else was happening at that time? Do not photograph other people - but take note of their appearance (black hair? Tall or short?).
Call emergency services if the road is blocked, something is damaged, or debris could be a hazard to traffic. Your insurer may ask for a surprising amount of detail, so take note of any reference numbers given.
To give yourself the best chance of success if you do make a claim, says Citizens Advice, do not tell anyone else it was your fault, even if you think it was.
It may also help your case to know other potentially useful facts, including conditions of the road (any potholes, or slippery spills?) and the weather.
Keep copies of all documents and letters. And if you receive a letter from someone else, send it to your insurer right away.
How to avoid a delay processing your claim
On the phone, be as clear as possible about what happened. Co-operate with insurer requests if you can - for example, if you take it to a different repairer, you may not be able to claim back the cost of repairs.
Insurer Coverbox.co.uk lists "poor communication with your insurer" as a key reason for delays. It's also a good idea to have the excess amount to hand, in case the insurer requests it up front. You may also be charged an admin fee.
Make sure you've read your own insurance policy, as they vary between companies.
"Each insurer has its own policy clauses which drivers have to agree to. If for some reason you have overlooked an important section in your policy documents, it could mean bad news for you," warns Coverbox.co.uk.
For example, some comprehensive insurance policies may let you keep your no-claims discount even if you're in an accident with someone who's uninsured.
When did you last switch your car insurance provider?
Last year 65% of customers didn't switch their car insurance to try and get a better deal.