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 inform your insurer. Read what to do in the event of an accident, and why.

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.

Inform your insurer of accident

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

But make it crystal clear that this is for ‘information only’ and that 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.

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.

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 the future.

In summary

  • 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 inform 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

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 give your vehicle registration number, your name and address, and that of the vehicle owner (if different), to anyone with reasonable grounds for asking for these details.

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.

Injury at an accident

Where another person is injured, then in addition to the above, you must 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.

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