Motor Insurance Claims Guide

Motor Accidents and Claims

Most people hope that when they take out a motor insurance policy they will never have to make a claim. Unfortunately, accidents happen and property is stolen so it's important to know what to do. When people buy insurance they want the peace of mind that their insurance company will look after things.

Insurance can be a complex business. Always read your policy and if there is anything you are not sure about, ask your broker or insurer to explain it to you.

Ground Rules Of Insurance

There are certain principles, which all insurance contracts are based on. It makes sense to understand these rules now and hopefully avoid problems later on.

Can The Insurance Company Settle A Claim Against My Policy Without My Agreement?
Yes...when you take out an insurance policy, you agree that the insurance company can deal with a claim on your behalf and if appropriate settle the claim. You certainly will be given the opportunity to give your full explanation as to the circumstances of the incident, however. You should keep in touch with the insurance company for up to date details of the progress of claim.

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How Do I Know What I'm Covered For?
Your policy will list what you're covered for so it's important that you read it carefully. Many people find out when it's too late that they are not covered for a particular loss. Read the policy and ask questions if you are not sure.

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How Much Will The Policy Pay?
The policy will indemnify you against further loss. What is meant by indemnity is that in the event of a claim, where the risk is covered, the insurers will compensate you so that you are in the same financial position as you were before the loss. The exception to this rule is where there is an excess on the policy.

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Excess
The amount of a claim a policyholder agrees to pay if he or she suffers a loss. An excess is often standard with some policies such as car insurance or travel. So if you have an excess of €100 and agreed cost of repairing your car is €1,200 the insurance company pay €1,100 and you pay €100. Voluntary excess cuts the cost of most insurance premiums.

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Accidents

The Scene
If you have an accident, take a note of the registration number of the other vehicles involved and the names of their owners and drivers. Also, ask for the name and address of everybody else who is involved, including witnesses. You are under no obligation to admit liability and certainly do not sign any statement, as this would break your policy conditions Take a note of the other person's insurance details (You can usually get this information form the windscreen disc on their car).

It's a good idea is to carry a disposable camera in the glove box of your car. Then, if you are involved in an accident you can take photographs of the scene, showing the positions of the vehicle, any damage done and so on. It's a lot easier than trying to remember or explain circumstances later on. As an alternative make a sketch plan of the accident scene showing the positions of the vehicles, road markings, etc.

Complying With The Law
If you are involved in an accident in which a person or animal is injured or a vehicle or property is damaged you must do the following:

  • STOP!
  • Give your name, address, the registration number of your vehicle, and your insurance details, to anybody who needs the information.
  • If anybody other than you is injured, you must show your insurance certificate to the local Gardai within 24 hours.
  • You must also show your certificate to anybody who asks for it if you have damaged his or her vehicle or property.
  • If you are involved in an accident, you should tell your insurance company as soon as possible and send your insurance company all the correspondence relating to the accident. Do not reply to the correspondence yourself, your insurance company will sort it out and handle the claim for you.
  • If you are at fault, the other driver will claim against you so your insurance company will need to know the circumstances as soon as possible.
  • If the other driver is responsible for the accident, you will have to claim against their policy so it is important to get the details of their insurance including, the company, the policy number and the registration number of the vehicle. (You can usually get this information from the windscreen disc). You will have to deal with this type of claim yourself, however you should nevertheless inform your insurance company of the circumstances. If anybody was injured you should see your solicitor.
  • If you have comprehensive cover and the other driver is responsible, you can claim the cost of repairing your vehicle from your insurance company and your insurers will claim from the other driver's insurance company. Your no claims discount will be reduced until your insurance company have recovered what they paid out from the other driver's insurance company.

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Getting Your Car Repaired
If your policy cover is comprehensive or fire and theft, phone your broker or insurer and give details of the place and time where the engineer can inspect your vehicle. There may be an approved repairer in your area. If you are claiming from somebody else let their insurance company know where they can inspect your car. Always check your policy conditions as there may extra costs for you if you do not use approved repairer.

Stolen Cars
Tell the local Gardai as soon as you realise your vehicle has been stolen. If the vehicle is not found within 28 days your insurance company will work out your claim in accordance with the terms of your policy. You must send the certificate of ownership, the keys and so on to your insurance company when requested.

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Repair
If the vehicle is damaged your insurance company will work out the cost of repairing it with the repairers and pay this amount less any excess.

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Write Off
If your car is written off or stolen you should suspend your policy if you are not immediately putting another car on cover. There may be a credit premium in some cases for suspension of cover over a certain period. Check with your broker / insurers.

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Stolen Vehicles Not Recovered
The amount you will receive in settlement will be what the car was worth before it was stolen. You should make sure the amount your vehicle is insured for is as near to the market value as possible. If you are not sure, you should ask a main dealer garage. Although many insurance companies use year of car, and not car value to calculate the premium, you should review this every year. Insurers vary in this regard, always ask.

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Prosecutions
Please tell us straight away if you or your driver receives notice of any prosecution. These are examples of material fact which must be disclosed to your insurers. (See jargon buster ) It would also help to know if anybody else who was involved in the accident is going to be prosecuted.

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How Will A Claim Affect My No Claims Discount?
How your no claims discount is affected differs depending on the type of policy and type of claim. Depending on this your no claims discount may be untouched in the case of fire, theft or windscreen claims, stepped back (reduced) or removed completely. It is normal practice for your no claims discount to be removed while we are investigating a claim even if we have not paid anything out. Your Insurer or broker will be happy to advise you in the event that you are unfortunate enough to have a claim.

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Reimbursing Claims
If when you renew your policy you find that you have lost your bonus, you may be able to have your no claims bonus restored by paying back all the payments associated with the claim when the claim is fully settled. This sometimes occurs when the policyholder finds that the claim was settled for a small sum. The option to reimburse is only available at the renewal following the claim settlement and is at the discretion of the company. Your Insurer or broker will advise you.

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Safety And Prevention

Child Safety
Here are some dangerous situations for children in or around cars:

  • Always keep children secure in a recommended child car seat or harness.
  • Never allow children to sit on a passenger's lap (either in the front or back seat).
  • Don't let children sit in a front seat of a car if they are under 12.
  • Do not leave children on their own in a car.
  • Remember cigarette lighter or matches left in a car are dangerous and can cause fire.
  • Make sure children's heads are kept clear of open windows, particularly electric windows.
  • Always use the child safety locks.
  • Do not put too many children in the car.
  • Never allow children to walk around or between parked cars.
  • Never leave children unattended while getting in or out of a car.
  • Remember an unsecured child is seven times more likely to be severely injured or killed than a child who is properly strapped in.

Driving Long Distances
The National Safety Council makes the following recommendations for long journeys:

  • Take time to plan your trip.
  • Set off in the morning after a good night's sleep.
  • Plan to drive at times when you are normally awake, avoid late-night an early morning drives.
  • Take regular breaks (at least every two hours).
  • Eat properly to maintain blood sugar levels, not too much, not too little.
  • Share driving where possible.
  • If you are tired or sleepy, there is only one solution. You must find a suitable spot for a rest.
  • Speed limits are there for a reason, keep to them.
  • Everyone in the car should always wear their seat belts.
  • Never drink and drive.
  • Don't use the car phone when you are driving.

First Aid Kit
You should always carry a first aid kit in your car.

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Car Security
Never leave valuables in your car where they can be seen. For example, do not leave jackets, handbags etc. on the passenger seat while you are driving. If you do have to leave property in your car, always put it in the boot of the car. Try not to do this where you may be seen. Remember out of sight is out of mind.

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