How Long Do I Have to Report a Car Accident to My Insurer?

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By Sarah Watts
Updated on Thursday 3 December 2020

A driver taking a photo of his damaged car

If you had a car accident, would you know what to do?

We’re all guilty of blissfully thinking ‘it won’t happen to us’ about many things in life, but the chances are, at some point, you may very well be involved in some sort of car accident, even if it’s a minor accident like clipping another car’s wing mirror.

According to Scrap Car Network, general estimates say that over the course of an average driving lifetime, you’ll be involved in around 3 to 4 accidents. This estimate isn’t conclusive, of course, but it gives you a general idea of how likely it is to happen. With this in mind, it’s best to know exactly what it is you should do in the event of a car accident.

‘Forewarned is forearmed’ as they say, so we aim to prepare you for this unwelcome eventuality by answering 6 of the most commonly asked questions, including:

How long do I have to report a car accident to my insurance company (UK)?

You have usually a maximum of 24 hours to report a car accident to your UK Insurer. The majority of insurance companies specify in their terms and conditions of an insurance policy that they require you to report an accident within 24 hours of it taking place.

You should report an accident to your insurer, even if you do not intend to make a claim on your policy for compensation. Make a point of letting your insurer know that you do not intend to claim and do so in writing.

Should I contact the police?

If, for any reason, details are not exchanged at the scene of the accident then you must report the accident to the police. Again, this should be done within 24 hours of the accident taking place and preferably, as soon as reasonably possible.

Failure to report the accident to the police is deemed to be a criminal offence. Not contacting the Police could result in you facing penalty points on your driving licence, a fine of up to £5,000 or disqualification from driving. If you do not report a more serious accident to the police, you could even be imprisoned for up to six months!

These offences will subsequently make your car insurance premiums skyrocket as you will be deemed a high-risk driver. 

Read more: Convicted Driver Insurance

If the incident is a major car accident and a car is left abandoned or bits of debris are left in the road which could cause a hazard to other road users, again, you should immediately contact the police.

Otherwise, if everything is above board (i.e. contact details are exchanged and there is little-to-no damage to any vehicle or person involved in the accident), then you do not need to contact the police. If the police attend the scene and a report is completed by them, you should then definitely contact your insurance provider.

The police will not contact your insurer; this is your responsibility unless this responsibility is absolved by a third-party doing so who was involved in the accident.

Do you have to report a minor car accident to my provider (UK)?

So you know what to do after a car accident and the 24-hour time limit on reporting the accident to your insurer (or the police, if appropriate).

But, if you have a minor car accident in the UK, would you know what to do?

The same principle still applies, whether it’s a major car accident or just a minor scrape - you must tell your insurer. This is regardless of whether you or another party intends to make a claim or not.

The bottom line is that you must report any type of accident, however minor, to your insurer, and make sure you state to your insurer that you do not intend to make a claim on your policy, if this is the case.

How long does a car insurance claim take to settle?

On average, a car insurance claim can take four to nine months to settle. If someone is physically injured in a car accident, personal injury claims will usually take eight to twelve months, and can often take a lot longer in many cases.

What should I do if I have an accident outside of the UK?

The Citizens Advice Bureau gives comprehensive advice on what you should do if you’re involved in an accident abroad.

The key things to do are:

  • Get evidence: make notes, take photographs and record number plates of other vehicles involved
  • Exchange insurance details
  • Obtain witness names and addresses
  • Don’t admit liability or say sorry
  • If you have one, complete a European Accident Statement, but only sign the EAS if you’re sure of the facts and keep a copy
  • Contact your insurer as soon as possible, even if you don’t want to make a claim
  • If you’re in a hire car, follow the instructions for reporting an accident provided by the hire car company, but do not admit liability

Some insurers, like General Accident Car Insurance, provide insurance cover for driving a car in Europe and abroad as part of their comprehensive car insurance policy.

If your comprehensive car insurance doesn’t cover you in the event of a breakdown abroad, then you should consider taking out short term breakdown cover for added protection. 

Learn more: The Best Breakdown Cover Providers in the UK

How much will my insurance go up after an accident?

If you claim on your car insurance after an accident, this will make your car insurance more expensive. If your policy does not protect your no claims bonus (NCB), you will lose this too.

How much extra you will have to pay for your car insurance policy will, of course, very much depend on if you were at fault and how much damage was caused. You may even need to seek out convicted driver's car insurance depending on any convictions.

If your car insurance renewal is due soon, be sure to compare quotes online to see how much you could save now:

Alternatively, check out our related articles below for further advice and information.

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