Car insurance claims

Woman making insurance claim next to broken down car

If you're stuck on what steps to take after an accident, follow this handy guide. It'll answer all your car insurance claim questions and give you an idea of what to expect throughout the process of making a claim on your insurance policy.

Is making a claim on your car insurance worth it?

In some situations, perhaps not. If your shopping trolley in the car park decided to dance with the wind on a gusty day, kissing the car door as you’re unloading groceries, you may decide to simply live with the minor ding. Especially if the excess is more expensive than the damage itself.

But in other situations you may be forced to claim on car insurance if you want to keep driving, as well as pay for damage you've caused to other vehicles. Then you'll be really glad you took out a policy.

Are you a young driver, inexperienced on the roads or have a poor driving history? Expect to pay more than the basic excess. This is because insurance companies base these prices on how risky you are as a driver.

If you’re deemed a risk on the road by your car insurance company, you may want to consider:

  • Taking a refresher course with a driving instructor
  • Passing a safe driving course
  • Getting your eyes checked (just in case)

What to expect when making a claim

1. Excess: If you’re at fault, you will need to pay an excess. Whether you hold third party property or comprehensive car insurance, your excess is an agreed amount you set when purchasing your policy which you'll have to pay before your insurance kicks in at claim time.

As a general rule, the lower the premium the higher the excess, as you're essentially betting on not having to make many claims. A lower excess when making a claim is great if you’re prone to regular accidents, but check with your insurance provider about how this will impact your annual premium. 

2. Future premiums: One little mishap might not feel significant, but it will likely increase your premium. This means if you make more than one claim in 12 months, your premium could go up significantly and your excess could also increase. But remember, these changes all depends on your insurance provider.

3. No claim bonus: This car insurance discount will likely be affected if you make a claim, although some providers will allow a set number of claims per policy period without it affecting your no claims bonus. Some will even offer bonus protection as an optional extra for a fee. And if you stay loyal to one provider, every year you don’t claim rebuilds your no claim bonus. 

I’ve never been in an accident. What should I expect?

It’s easy to get frazzled during an accident, even if it’s a minor collision. Here are a few key actions to remember if an accident happens when you're behind the wheel.

1. Is everyone ok? If someone needs medical assistance or is seriously injured, call 000 immediately.

2. Licence: Get ready to exchange your personal details with the other driver, as well as the name of your insurance company. If you don’t have a piece of paper and pen handy, take a snapshot with your phone.

3. Number plate: While you’re jotting down their personal details and car specifications (including the make, model and colour of their car) write down their registration number as well. Or photograph it instead.

4. Damage: Taking photos of the damage to all cars is a good idea for record keeping, and can help determine how the accident happened and who was at fault. 

5. What, when, how? It could be that both parties will hold some responsibility and share the cost of the repairs, or that one driver is at fault and will have to cover costs. What you should agree on is the time, date and location of the accident. Also take note of weather and traffic conditions, road surfaces, street signs and the speed limit. Then exchange details and leave it up to the insurance companies. 

6. Call your insurance provider Your insurance company is trained to deal with customers who are highly stressed after an accident. If your car is too damaged to drive, the insurance company can organise a tow truck for you or give you a number of a company associated with your policy so that if you qualify, your expenses are covered or dealt with.

Other important FAQs about car insurance claims

Do I need to use an approved repairer?
This will depend on your policy and provider. Some policies include your own choice of repairer, while others require you to use one of their approved mechanics or repairers. 

If you don't have a policy which covers your choice of repairer and you would like your local mechanic to do the work, run it past your insurance provider and get approval first. 

Who do I deal with after an accident?
If you’ve been involved in an accident and you have filed a claim with your insurance company you should only deal with your insurance provider. Unfortunately, some parties may send you a personal letter of demand, since they’ve got your address now. Stay firm and ignore this.

Any car insurance claim is a matter between insurance parties or your insurance company and the third party. Nothing should come out of your pocket to cover damages (if you've got sufficient coverage and your claim has been approved) except for the excess you agreed on with your provider when you first purchased your policy. 

When am I not covered by my insurance policy?
You won't be covered if you were:

  • Under the influence of alcohol over the legal driving limit
  • Using illicit drugs or unregistered medication that may alter your ability to drive
  • Speeding, driving negligently or breaking any other laws at time of the accident

Then, there will always be some things not covered by car insurance. These are usually listed as exclusions in your PDS, and include things like mechanical failures and general wear and tear. Also know any limits on certain policy points, like how many days you're covered for a hire car or the amount you insured for personal belongings inside your car.

How long will my car insurance claim take?
Initiating the claims process may only take minutes on the phone or online, but there’s no predicting the length of time the actual claim will take. You’re relying on the third party to be available so your provider can speak with them or their own insurance company to determine who’s at fault and the outcome.

You may need to factor in inspector’s assessments of both vehicles, police reports, medical examinations and more. This could take days, months or even years. So sit tight. There’s no telling if this will be a smooth or bumpy ride.

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