If you are involved in a road traffic accident, you should exchange insurance details with the other driver, take photographs and the name of any witnesses if possible and report the accident to your insurance company (even if you don’t want to make a claim).
If you have a comprehensive insurance policy, you can make a claim from your own insurer, but this might mean you lose your no claims bonus if your insurance company is unable to recover the money from the at fault party’s insurers.
Third party insurance
If you only have third party insurance, you’ll need to claim against the other driver. Inform the at fault driver in writing that you plan to make claim (and their company if they were driving a company car) and also let your insurer know once you’ve done this.
At fault party has no insurance
You can find out if the at fault driver has insurance by contacting the Motor Insurance Database. If the driver is uninsured or can’t be identified, you can claim on your own insurance if you have comprehensive cover. If you haven’t, contact the Motor Insurers Bureau which may be able to settle your claim if the at fault driver was uninsured or broke his policy conditions.
Credit hire companies
If the accident wasn’t your fault, you can use a credit hire company instead of claiming through your insurance company. The credit hire company pays for any repairs and for the cost of a replacement vehicle while yours is being fixed; it then claims the money back from the at fault driver’s insurance company. Using a credit hire company means you don’t have to pay the excess on your policy, although you may need to pay a fee as an insurance policy which ensures you won’t have to pay the bill if the at fault driver’s insurance company doesn’t pay up.
Legal expenses cover
If you have legal expenses cover, advise your insurance company that you would like to make use of this cover to make a claim. They will notify the law firm they usually use and send instructions for them to contact you. You should usually get a letter in the post from the legal expenses law firm within two weeks of your notification. You will then have to complete a form outlining what happened and what you will be claiming, eg, insurance policy excess, property damage and/ or personal injury. If liability is accepted by the third party insurers, the value of your claims will be negotiated between your legal expenses solicitors and the third party insurers.
If you have comprehensive cover, don’t get your car fixed without your insurer’s permission: they may want to inspect it first and/ or send it to their preferred repairer.
Most garages that insurers use provide courtesy cars while your vehicle is being repaired. If you opt to hire your own car, the claim for this may be challenged by the third party insurers, especially if you hire a vehicle which is more extravagant than your original vehicle. You may also be challenged on the duration of the hire if it is unreasonable. You will have to reimburse the car hire company for any unpaid charges that the third party insurers successfully challenge.
If the car is very badly damaged and it is not economical to fix it, the insurance company might decide to write it off and pay you the market value of your car rather than repair costs. The insurance company will usually take the car, but you might be able to strike a deal which allows you to keep it.
Depending on the extent of your injury, it may take six months to two years for this aspect of your claim to be settled. Minor soft tissue and/or whiplash injury claims may be settled more quickly, without the need of a medical report if both parties’ consent. Often, the third party insurers will offer the use of their medical providers to aid your recovery and provide a report on your injuries. If such treatments are agreed, you will not have to meet the treatment fees from the onset and these are invoiced directly to the third party insurers. Some insurers may make you an offer of settlement based on these reports.
Personal injury claims will usually require one or more medico-legal reports in support. This will entail a medical expert examining you and providing an opinion as to your injuries and expected recovery period. Should your claim fail to be settled amicably, the report may be used in support of your evidence of injuries. Medico-legal instructions can be jointly made by claimant solicitors and defendant insurers, in which case both parties cannot later refuse to accept the medical evidence given by the expert. Offers will sometime be made by the third party insurers based on the medical report.
What happens if no settlement is reached?
If no settlement can be reached, you’ll need to take your claim to court. Your legal expenses insurers will issue a claim and the third party insurers will then instruct their defendant solicitors to represent the at fault driver. Their solicitors may then continue negotiating with the goal of reaching settlement out of court.