2 How do I make an insurance claim?

2 How do I make an insurance claim?

Once you are armed with all the details you collected at the scene of the accident it is time to start the claiming process. In the old days, this meant filling out endless forms, but today the process can be much easier.

• Telephone your insurance company and ask to be connected with the claims department. Most will take your details and fill out a claim form for you.

• Most companies can now deal with a claim very quickly. They can go from taking your details to arranging for an assessor to inspect the vehicle, in one phone call.

• If your insurance company has a website, there may be a 24-hour online claiming facility. The benefit of claiming online is that you can track the progress of your claim from beginning to end without getting stuck in a telephone hold system.

• If you are filling in forms or drawing a diagram of the accident scene, be accurate. If you try to mislead insurers, your policy will be invalidated.

• An insurance assessor will need to inspect your car in order to come up with a quote to repair the damage. An appointment for this will be made in the initial stages of your claim.

• If your insurer thinks your car is written off, and you're not happy with the valuation they put on it, you can dispute this figure. Argue your case using evidence from whatcar.com's car valuation calculator by clicking here or buy a copy of What Car?'s Used Car Buyer's Guide.

• Beware of the difference between 'guide retail' and 'guide trade' price. The trade price is what a trader would pay you for your car, while the retail price is what the retailer would then sell it for. Expect the insurer to offer something between the two.

• Look for cars on sale that are close in age, condition and specification to your own and present these as evidence of what it will cost you to replace your car. Remember, though, the price that cars are sold at on forecourts is only a starting point for negotiations, so you are unlikely to be offered the full amount.

• Research suggests that one in 10 adults has made a fraudulent claim, so it is inevitable that insurers will want you to prove unequivocally the events of an accident, the value of the cars involved and the cost of repairs.

• The key is to present as much evidence as possible. If your car is in particularly good condition, take photos as evidence. Keep receipts of any work done that may increase the car's value, including service history. Also remember that many modifications that appeal to you may not add retail value to the car and may even reduce its value.

• If you and your insurance company can't agree on a valuation, you can appeal to the Financial Ombudsman Service for mediation. Details can be found here.

• If you are involved in an accident where the other driver is uninsured, some claims will be met by the Motor Insurers' Bureau (www.mib.org.uk).

• Repair work will be carried out at a garage chosen by the insurance company and they will pay the bill. However, you will have to pay the excess amount dictated by your policy.

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