How to make a car insurance claim

Car insurance is something of an oddity, as far as essential purchases go. We’re happy to avail of most of the goods and services that we buy, but car insurance is something that we purchase in the hope that we’ll never have to use it. Life can be unpredictable, however, and most of us at some point will end up making an insurance claim – even if we weren’t at fault. That’s just the nature of the world: recklessness, distractions, incompetence and out-of-the-blue accidents can all conspire to put us at the mercy of our insurers.

In This Guide:

Filing an insurance claim

Whatever comes your way, hopefully your insurance company will have things covered. Vehicle damage comes in all shapes and sizes – whether it’s a fender bender, vandalism resulting in a smashed window, theft resulting in the loss of your car or internal damage which renders the car unusable, insurers have heard it all before – so don’t panic!

There are two main types of . The first of these may help you in the event of the following:

  • Stolen/hijacked vehicle;
  • Fire damage to your vehicle;
  • Accidental damage to a third-party vehicle;
  • Accidental damage to property belonging to another (driving through a neighbour’s wall, for example).

Comprehensive insurance covers all the above, as well as the following:

  • Vandalism to your vehicle;
  • Damage caused by a natural disaster;
  • Property stolen from your car (such as a mobile phone);
  • Damage due to a collision.

If your car has been stolen or vandalised, you will need to file a report with your local police department. The police will then issue you with a case number, which you’ll need to provide your insurance provider with.

What to consider before contacting your insurer

Filing an insurance claim can be a stressful task. If you’ve sourced your policy through an insurance broker, it might be a good idea to contact them and request that they contact your insurance company on your behalf. If your broker doesn’t offer this service as standard, you’ll most likely have to contact the insurer yourself.

Before contacting your insurer, you should make sure that you are up to date with your premium payments, as this could affect how your claim is processed, or if it is even processed at all.

The most important thing for all insurance holders to be aware of is what their policy specifically covers. In some cases, it can be advisable for individuals to assess their environment and consider whether there are any threats they are likely to encounter. Some insurers might be unwilling to cover vehicles stored in public areas known for high crime, for example.

Questions to ask your insurance provider

When you contact your insurer, you should be prepared to ask the following questions:

  1. Does my policy cover me for this specific loss or incident?
  2. How much will my excess payment be?
  3. Is there a time limit for filing my claim?
  4. How long is the claim likely to take to process?

The first question is particularly important, because some policies are designed only to cover items that have been listed as part of the vehicle (for example, a satellite navigation device or a stereo sound system). Some insurers won’t be willing to cover unspecified possessions which just happened to be in your vehicle at the time of a theft, such as laptops, handbags, mobile phones or clothing. With this in mind, it’s always worth consulting the small print of your policy and taking out external insurance policies for items like mobile phones. Some mobile phone contract providers will actually include insurance as standard in the contracts that they offer.

Will I have to meet with an assessor if my car has been badly damaged?

If your vehicle has been badly damaged or stolen, your car insurance company might send an assessor to consider the damages made to the vehicle and to interview you about the incident. After the assessment, it could be the case the cost of repairs is higher than the value of your car. In this instance, your insurance provider might make a decision to “write off” your car and pay out an amount equal to the value of your car before the incident occurred.

Will there be much paperwork?

Thankfully, the days of insurers dealing with mountains of paperwork are largely a thing of the past. The industry has advanced, and most information can be provided digitally or over the phone. In the event of a pay-out being made, you might have to sign a document to confirm this, but it’s likely to be the only piece of paperwork you’ll encounter during the entire process.

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