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Consumer Rights.

Updated: 5 Mar 2021

I've been in a car accident, do I have to claim on my insurance?

If you’ve been in a car accident, you don't have to claim on your insurance but you do have to tell your insurer. Read what to do in the event of an accident, and why.
Which?Editorial team
I've been in a car accident, do I have to claim on my insurance?

No claims bonus

If you wish to preserve your no claims discount and you decide to pay for the repairs yourself (or attempt to recover them from the other driver), you don't have to submit your claim to your insurer.

Sometimes the cost of losing your no claims bonus is more than the cost of paying for the repairs yourself. If so, you would be better off not claiming.

Should you tell your insurer about an accident?

Yes - if you've been in an accident, you do have to tell your insurer. You should send your insurer a letter telling them what's happened. 

But make it crystal clear that this is for ‘information only’ and you don’t wish to make a claim.

This should ensure your insurer doesn’t settle with the other party's insurer without your knowledge.

Timeframe to inform your insurer

It will also be a condition of your insurance policy that you report the accident to your insurance company within a reasonable time, even if you don’t want to claim yourself.

What is considered a reasonable amount of time differs between policies. 

You should check the terms and conditions of your policy, but if it doesn't state the timeframe, try to do it as soon as possible.

A failure to do so can give your insurance company the right to refuse to cover you in future.

Right to request insurance details

Even if there was no personal injury involved, if someone holds you responsible for the accident they have the right to request your insurance details.

This request can be made later and not necessarily at the time of the accident. 

A failure to provide your insurance details without a reasonable excuse is also an offence. 

A reasonable excuse would constitute having suffered an injury at the time of accident.

Key Information

Do I have to tell my insurer when I've been in a car accident?

  • If you wish to protect your no-claims bonus and pay for the repairs yourself you don't have to submit a claim to your insurer
  • You must tell your insurer that you've been in an accident. A failure to do so could give your insurer the right to refuse to insure you in future
  • You must stop if you're involved in an accident and you must always report it, or risk being penalised up to £5,000 and penalty points on your licence

How to make an insurance claim if an accident isn’t your fault

If an accident wasn’t your fault and you need to make an insurance claim, you have a few options

Use a credit hire company

You can use a credit hire company to save you paying the excess.

The credit hire company pays for the cost of hiring you another car while yours is being fixed.

It also covers the cost of repairs then claims those expenses from the insurance company of the other driver.

Your insurer will still need to know about the accident though, even if you don’t claim.

Make sure you read the fine print in the credit hire company’s terms and conditions - there’s often a clause stating how much you’ll have to pay if you’re misleading or you don’t cooperate with them.

Getting insurer to pay excess

If you don’t want to go through a credit hire company and the accident wasn’t your fault, you can pay the excess then pursue the insurer of the other driver to reimburse it once the claim is settled.

Though it’s worth asking your insurer if they can help you get you claim your excess cost back from the other insurer.

If you’re still having trouble getting your money back, you may need to take the other driver or their insurer to the small claims court.

What to do in an accident

Under the Road Traffic Act 1988 section 170, if you're involved in an accident and you're the driver, you must stay at the scene for a reasonable time.

You must provide the following details to anyone with reasonable grounds for asking:

  • your vehicle registration number 
  • your name
  • your address,
  • the name and address of the of the vehicle owner (if different)

If you don't exchange these details at the scene, you must report the accident at a police station or to a police officer as soon as you can, and in any case, within 24 hours.

Key Information

What to do if you're in a car accident abroad

Contact the police, but do not admit any liability or sign any documents other than the European Accident Statement, of 'Constat Amiable'.

If you're unable to drive your car, contact your insurer immediately. 

If you can drive, you can wait until you're back in the UK to tell your insurer, as long as that's within two weeks of the accident.

Read more about how to claim for a car accident abroad.

Injury at an accident

If another person is injured in the accident you must also produce your certificate of insurance, if anyone at the scene has reasonable grounds to see it. 

If you don’t, you must report the accident at a police station or to a police officer as soon as you can. This must be within 24 hours.

You must do these things not only when you were directly involved in an injury accident, but also if your vehicle’s presence was a factor.

If you don’t have your certificate of insurance at the scene of the accident, you may take it to a police station you nominate when you report the incident.

You must do this within seven days of the accident. 

Reporting the accident to the police by telephone is not sufficient, and you can’t ask someone else to report it for you.

If you have any doubts, we advise you to complete the above steps as soon as the accident happens, regardless of who was at fault.

Penalty points

Failure to do any of the above can mean two criminal offences are being committed: failure to stop, and failure to report.

It's possible to be guilty of either or both. 

The penalties for each offence include a maximum fine of £5,000 and five to 10 penalty points on your driving licence.

The court also has the power to disqualify you from driving for either offence, and is likely to do so when both offences are committed on the same occasion.