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It is almost certainly a condition of your insurance policy that you notify your insurers as soon as possible after an accident
It is almost certainly a condition of your car insurance policy that you notify your insurer as soon as possible after an accident - check your policy documents to be certain.
You will need to tell them regardless of the type of cover you have or whether or not you intend making a claim under your policy.
If the policy is for comprehensive insurance then the damage should be covered subject to the terms and conditions of the policy.
You don't have to claim from your insurer, but if repair costs are high or your car is a write-off, then you may want to - although your 'no claims' discount may be affected.
If your cover is for third party or third party, fire and theft risks only, then accidental damage to your vehicle, except perhaps for damage caused by the fire or theft of the car, is not covered.
When making a claim from your own insurers you should follow their specific instructions - normally found in the policy itself or, occasionally, in a separate document.
If your vehicle is stolen and not recovered or if your insurer has estimated that the cost of repair is more than the vehicle is worth then it will be declared a total loss 'write-off' and you will be offered a cash payment to settle your claim based on the vehicle's market value.
The market value will generally be based on the retail price of a comparable vehicle, from a reputable dealer immediately prior to the damage/theft. It is important to bear in mind that cars will often sell for a lower price than that advertised, so while online listings/advertisements can give an idea of what your car may have been worth, the official price guides (Glass's, CAP etc.) will give the insurer a more accurate picture.
Any valuation you entered on the car insurance proposal form or on any claim form will not be taken into account.
If you are unhappy with your insurer's valuation in the case of a total loss settlement then you should take the matter up direct with your insurer in the first instance. The Financial Ombudsmen Service offers advice on how to complain and you can also ask them to look at your complaint if you're not happy with your insurer's response.
It is likely that your car insurance policy includes a clause requiring you to ensure that the vehicle is maintained in a roadworthy condition.
If, following an accident, it is established that your failing to maintain the vehicle in a roadworthy condition either caused or substantially contributed to the accident and subsequent loss then it is likely that your claim will be rejected.
Similarly a total loss payment may be reduced if there is evidence that the vehicle would not have passed an MOT test.
If your car is comprehensively insured, your insurers may advise you to use their approved repairers. If the claim is dealt with in this way, any repair problems can then be referred to your insurers.
The approved repairers may provide you with a courtesy vehicle; however this is normally subject to availability on a discretionary basis and is not an automatic entitlement unless your policy states otherwise.
If your vehicle is a 'write-off' then your policy is unlikely to provide for a courtesy car.
If your car is insured third party only and the accident was not your fault, you may be able to recover the cost of its repair from the other party. Once the details of your claim are passed to the other party's insurer, they may offer to have the repairs to your vehicle done for you. If they don't, you will need to recover the cost involved, along with any other uninsured losses.
If you are claiming under a comprehensive policy which is subject to an excess, you will normally have to pay the excess to the repairer before being allowed to collect the repaired vehicle.
(24 September 2013)