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Had a bump?

If you've been involved in an accident you need to inform your insurance company as quickly as possible – certainly within no more than 24 hours. This applies even if you do not intend to make a claim, since another person may well make a claim against your policy.

What happens next?

You will then be asked whether or not you wish to make a claim yourself. You may decide not to if the amount that you have to pay out is fairly small, you do not wish to lose your no claims bonus, or you have a large excess to pay. Do be aware though that even if no claim is made your premium may well rise in the future as a result of the accident, even if you were not to blame for it. Insurance companies are interested in what happens in the future as well as what has happened in the past, and most of them believe that if you have been involved in an accident, regardless of the circumstances, you are more likely to be involved in one in future.

Making a claim
If you decide to make claim you will be sent a claims form. Provided that you have comprehensive cover, you will be probably be asked if you require a courtesy car or legal representation if these benefits are included on your policy. Do bear in mind that a lot of policies do not actually guarantee a courtesy car; some of the cheaper ones state that you will be provided one if there is one available. There may well be a limit on the length of time you can use it, too.

Getting the damage assessed

An assessor will inspect your vehicle, decide on whether or not it is repairable and make an estimation of how much it would cost to repair it. If this exceeds a certain percentage of the vehicle's value (this percentage varies from one insurer to another) it may be decided to write the vehicle off. If this happens they will offer you a sum that they calculate the vehicle to have been worth prior to the accident. If it is less than you expect then you would need to give them good reason to justify a higher payout. If you still cannot agree you are of course free to put your case before the Insurance Ombudsman.

Insurance write-offs

In the event of a vehicle being declared a write-off you would normally be able to buy the vehicle back from the insurance company and have it repaired yourself, unless it was declared a Category A or Category B in which case it would have to be scrapped, since it could never be allowed back on a UK road. If you do decide to buy it the price would be subject to negotiation with the insurer.

Getting your car repaired

You should not make any arrangements to repair your car until you are given the okay to do so by your insurers. Many of them have a panel of approved garages that they will want the repairs to be carried out by. Since this is invariably stated clearly in their policy details, it may be difficult to have the work done by your favourite repairer, if this company is not on the approved list. If you are not satisfied with the quality of the repairs you should bring this up with the staff at the repairing garage in the first instance. If you are still not satisfied you should inform the insurer as soon as possible.

Effect on your no claims bonus

If it is accepted that the accident was not your fault you may not have to pay any excess that is required under your policy terms, provided that your insurer was able to recover it from the other driver's insurer. In this case your No Claims Bonus should not be affected. Do bear in mind though that future base premiums are likely to rise even though you were not at fault. If the other driver was uninsured, however, you could still lose your excess and at least part of your NBC if your insurer was unable to recover their costs.
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