Car Insurance Claims
About to submit a car insurance claim? Here's what to know to make the process a whole lot easier.
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Being involved in a car accident or having your car stolen can be a stressful time. Knowing how the claims process works beforehand then, can make the ordeal so much easier to deal with.
This review will explore how car insurance works, how to claim, what to do if you're not at fault, process times and the steps to take following the event to ensure the claims process runs as smoothly as possible.
How can this page help you?
How to claim against someone else's car insurance
There are a lot of details to exchange in the event of an accident, so try familiarising yourself with the following details. Take them down on your phone or have some pre-filled forms in the car to make life easier.
- Time, date and location of the incident
- Contact number
- Vehicle registration
- License number
- Details of their CTP insurer and policy
- A brief description of what happened
This can be supplemented by picture and video evidence, taken with your phone at the scene, to make sure your insurer has all they need to successfully process your claim. Make sure you have this information in all cases, whether you plan on making a claim against someone or not.
How to submit a claim
Depending on your insurer, there may be different ways in which you can lodge a car insurance claim, including:
- Online. Insurers will often let you fill out claims forms and submit them online at their websites. Some might specify claims team email addresses for you to get in touch with.
- Over the phone. You call your insurer to make a claim, or to inform them that something has happened and you will be making a claim. Sometimes you may be able to provide the relevant information, such as the name of the other driver and their registration number, over the phone, while material like photos will need another method.
- Using an app. Some insurers offer claims apps that can help you automatically navigate the procedures. These can be particularly useful by letting you upload photos or videos to your insurer through the app.
- In the mail or in person. If you think you'll want to do this, it may be worth specifically looking for such providers, as not all insurers will offer this option. You will generally still need to provide the same information.
How do car insurance claims work?
Insurers need all the information outlined above because it helps them determine the validity of claims and who is at fault. Insurers may be particularly interested in the details of the incident, and the details of the other driver and their insurer.
This is because insurers will typically attempt to recover costs from the at-fault party's insurers, when applicable, including the cost of damage, replacement rental car hire following an accident and other expenses. This, along with making sure you and your car are getting all the benefits your policy entitles you to, such as free repairs, free towing, emergency glass replacements and similar, are a significant part of what an insurer does.
The steps taken by insurers when processing claims can include:
- Recovery actions on your behalf. For example, if you've been injured in a car accident and the other driver was at fault, then your insurer can get in touch with the other drivers CTP insurance company on your behalf.
- Contacting the other drivers and witnesses. Insurers will often take investigative actions to confirm the details of what happened and help establish who was at fault, if anyone.
- Providing services. If you are eligible for emergency accommodation under the terms of your policy, for example, part of your insurer's claims process might be to book you a hotel room. The same goes for car repairs, towing and other services.
What to do if you're not at fault
Legal Aid recommends that you write a letter after the accident to let the other driver know you intend to make a claim against them.
This is a good idea if it's going to take a while to receive a repair quote. The other driver should then pass the letter on to their insurer – provided they have cover – unless they would rather pay for the damages personally.
You should then spend time getting at least two quotes for the cost of repairs so as to show they are fairly priced. Be sure to make photocopies of the quotes and keep hold of the originals. You should also add on any additional costs to do with the accident, such as towing costs, when working out your claim. If it's very clear who was at fault, it's likely your claim will be processed quickly. Otherwise, it can take insurers some time to determine if and who was at fault.
How long does it take for an insurance claim to be processed?
The time it will take to process your claim depends on a number of factors, including poor communication between you, your insurer and any other another driver involved. According to the General Insurance Code of Practice, your insurance provider has 10 business days from the day they receive your claim to respond with the outcome. If they need more time to decide, they will let you know in advance.
Car insurance claim time limit in Australia
There usually isn't a fixed deadline for car insurance claims as some damage settlements can take years to be finalised. This means that while insurers don't generally set a time limit, they depend on your full cooperation, so you should let them know if you've been in an accident as soon as possible.
The main exception is with injury claims, which are dealt with through CTP insurance and can sometimes be sorted in as little as a month. This is to ensure injured people get the benefits they are entitled to as soon as possible.
There are often time limits with your Police Event Number. If you need to report the accident to the police, this usually has to be done within 28 days in most states.
Can you claim car insurance on tax?
If you use your car for work, you may be able to claim a deduction for car expenses, including car insurance. This includes if you are using your car as a ride-sharing service or as an employee travelling for work. However, you probably use your car for both business and private use. As a result, you need to separate your car expenses so that you don't claim for personal use. An effective way to do this is through a logbook.
If you don't use your car for work, it's unlikely you'll be able to claim car insurance on tax.
Traps that could lead to your claim being rejected
If you do not follow the terms and conditions of your insurance policy, then insurers may reject your claims. Look for:
- Benefits. A common trap is to assume that a policy covers something when it doesn't. For example, you will probably need a comprehensive car insurance policy if you want to claim certain variety of types of damage, and cannot assume that you are covered for anything in specific.
- Exclusions. These are conditions where the policy will not pay out. Exclusions will typically apply for driving under the influence and otherwise being reckless behind the wheel, but there may be more specific ones such as exclusions for accidents that occur within a certain distance of your home, or beyond a certain amount.
- Your obligations. Not getting unapproved repairs and not offering to settle damage with other parties are two common obligations you will encounter in car insurance policies. Not following these can be used as valid grounds to decline a claim.
In all cases, reading your PDS is an effective first step to making sure you know your responsibilities and exclusions. Contacting your insurance provider as soon as you are able might also be a good idea because it can let you ask specific questions and get some assistance on the scene.
Who to contact if you are not satisfied with your claim
If you are not happy with how your insurer has handled your claim, and after going through your PDS believe you are in the right, then you can contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) for a resolution.
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