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Insurance claim or not?

Are you wondering whether the accidental damage to your car is too small for it to be worth filing an insurance claim? Here are some things to consider

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At some point most car owners will wonder whether some accidental damage seems so small that they are reluctant to make an insurance claim with the extra cost that may add to their next premium.

We’ve put together some things to consider…

Must I tell my insurer?

If an accident is somebody’s else’s fault your insurer deals with it and recovers the costs from the other person if it can be established who that is. It is recorded as a claim on your record. regardless of blame.

But what some minor damage concerns only you? To take a familiar example, let’s say you’ve biffed the post to your driveway coming home. Does this, in the eyes of an insurer, constitute an accident which you have to declare? Or can it stay between you and the gatepost?

We asked the Association of British Insurers (ABI) if there is an accepted definition of what an accident is (in terms of reporting an accident to an insurer). A spokesman said: “While no industry wide defined definition as such, generally it would be an incident that could give rise to a subsequent claim, either from the policyholder or a third party. It puts your insurer on guard where, for example, what appears to have been a minor bump later results in a claim for damage repair/ personal injury from another person.”

He added: “It is sensible to always notify the insurer if involved in an accident, however minor it may be and regardless of whether there is any damage or intent to file a claim. There could be serious consequences such as invalidating a policy for non-disclosure.”

What’s covered?

The legal minimum cover and the cheapest premium is third party only. This covers you against costs that arise as a result of injuries you cause to other people and damage to their vehicles. They will make a claim against you; you don’t decide. But you can’t claim for damage on your own car not involving anybody else. If it’s third party fire and theft you can claim if your car is damaged, stolen or destroyed in a fire.

Comprehensive is the highest level of cover available. It protects against; injuries to other people and damage to their vehicles your vehicle being damaged, stolen or destroyed in a fire, medical expenses and accidental damage, damage or theft of vehicle’s contents. Windscreen and glass cover is included.

With every type of policy, the longer you go claim-free the bigger your No Claims Discount (NCD) will be. NCDs vary from insurer to insurer, but they can be as much as 30% for one claim-free year and 60% for five claim-free years.

If you pay extra to protect the NCD you can make a number of claims without losing it, but the claims must be declared when it comes to a new quote with a new insurer whether or not they impacted on any protected NCD.

Fix or not?

If you are making any kind of claim (regardless of a third party) you may have agreed to pay a voluntary excess when the policy started. A voluntary excess usually gets you a lower premium. This means you will pay the first, say £150 of a claim. You may also have a compulsory excess depending on your past record, so you must pay a specified amount towards a claim.

If you’ve had a very big argument with your gatepost, smashed a wing and the bumper is hanging off, it may have done structural damage and need a professional repair which will outweigh any excess. You can get a quote from your trusted garage, but insurers have approved repairers which they may insist you use.

If you make a claim for minor damage (not affecting the structure of the car) and your car is old and low value, then the insurer may decide to write it off as economically unrepairable for them. They pay you for the entire value of the car and it is classed as a Category N write-off. However, if you can live with this damage, or have a trusted and cheap repairer and want to keep the car ask at the outset if you can buy it back from your insurer. This can leave you cash-in-hand, but you’ll need to re-register the car and the car will be still recorded as a write-off on the insurance database.

If you’re not making a claim, a paintwork scratch or a small dent can be safely left alone – although if it’s a metal part of the car, not plastic (usually the bumpers) it will start to rust in time. But if you’ve cracked a light, the numberplate or broken a wing mirror the car will be unroadworthy, would fail an MOT and you would be liable to a fine and possibly points on your licence.

Further information on motor insurance visit the Association of British Insurers (ABI) website.

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Russell Hayes
Russell Hayeshttps://amzn.to/3dga7y8
Russell Hayes’ early career was 14 years of motoring journalism in print, television and online. He worked for What Car? and Complete Car magazines, the BBC's original Top Gear programme and Channel 4's Driven. Since 2007 he has written motoring history books on subjects including Lotus, TVR, the Earls Court Motor Show, the Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Beetle and Bus and the original Aston Martin V8. Now a full-time author, two more books are in the pipeline for 2023 and 2024.