Car Insurance Claims Explained

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 can make the ordeal so much easier to deal with.

This guide 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 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. Take them down on your phone or have some pre-filled forms in the car to make life easier.

  • Name
  • Time, date and location of the incident
  • Contact number
  • Address
  • Vehicle registration
  • Licence number
  • Details of their insurer
  • 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 on their websites. Some might specify claims team email addresses for you to get in touch with.
  • Over the phone. You can call your insurer to make a claim, or to inform them that something has happened and you will be making a claim.
  • Using an app. Some insurers offer mobile apps that can help you automatically navigate the claims process. These can be particularly useful by letting you upload photos or videos to your insurer through the app.
  • In the mail or in person. It’s worth noting that not all insurers will offer these options, but f they do, 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 those 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, possible 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 insurance company on your behalf.
  • Contacting the other drivers and witnesses. Insurers will often investigate 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.

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. According to the Fair Insurance Code, 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.

Making a complaint to your insurer

According to the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) when you place a formal complaint, your insurance company must:

  • acknowledge your complaint within 5 business days
  • respond to your complaint within 10 business days
  • advise you of your right to take the complaint to their independent, external disputes resolution scheme if they are unable to resolve your complaint within 2 months.

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, if you use your car for both business and private use you will 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 out for:

  • Your policy 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 you 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 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.

In all cases, reading your policy document is a good first step to making sure you know your responsibilities and exclusions. Contacting your insurance provider as soon as possible is also a good idea.

Who to contact if you are not satisfied with your claim

If you are not happy with how your insurer has handled your claim then you can contact Financial Services Complaints Limited (FSCL) to help.

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