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Insurance agent investigating a car accident for insurance process

How to drive a smoother insurance claim process

No one wants the pain and hassle of a car accident or a house fire to be compounded by a complicated insurance claim process.

The thing is most of us just pay our monthly or yearly insurance bill and hope we’ll never have to make a claim.

If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of having to make one, we’ve broken down the claim process to help ease some of the stress and get it all resolved sooner.

What is the insurance claim process?

If your claim is straightforward, it will follow a standard process. Collect as much information as you can about the incident/accident before checking what your policy covers. If you have to pay an excess and the damage is minimal, you may decide it is not worth losing your no-claim bonus. If you decide to make a claim, take the following steps.

What should I do first?

Contact your insurer as soon as possible after the incident with as much information as you have available to speed up the claims process.

If you’ve had a car accident, this could include:

    • The contact details of any other person involved, including driver’s licence and car registration
    • The contact details of any witnesses, if they are happy to provide them
    • A police report number, if police attended
    • Any photos you might have taken on your phone (if you were not too distressed to take them)
    • The details of the tow truck company, if your vehicle was towed
  taking photo for car insurance  

If you have experienced a flood, fire or other damage to your house and contents, or have been broken into, the information could include:

    • A detailed description of the events
    • A timeline (ie I woke in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke; I came home to find the back window smashed in and items missing)
    • A police report, with the details of what was stolen or damaged
    • Photos you took to show any damage
    • Any photos you might have of what it looked like beforehand

How can I lodge a claim?

You will be asked to fill out a claim form. Depending on your insurer, this could be done over the phone with the help of a customer service assistant, or they may direct you to an online form.

While you don’t have to lodge a claim immediately, some insurers have a time limit depending on the type of accident, so check with your insurer.

Fill out forms while the details are still fresh in your mind. And the sooner you submit your insurance claim, the quicker the process begins.

How long does it take to process a claim?

The General Insurance Code of Practice sets out maximum timeframes for the insurance claim process, though it does not mean your claim should take that long. All claims must be progressed in a fair and reasonable way.

After you have submitted your claim, the insurer must contact you within 10 business days. They may accept or reject your claim, or they may have some follow-up questions. They must tell you what they need and whether an assessor has been appointed, as well as give you an estimate of the time needed to decide your claim.

 

Insurance claim form

 

How long it will take depends on your insurer and what you’re claiming for. Check both your policy and your insurer’s website before you call them so you are armed with the right information, and you can prepare any questions. This will help streamline the process.

Check if your insurance entitles you to any assistance while you’re waiting for your insurance claim to be assessed. This could include a replacement hire car or temporary accommodation. If the insurer does ultimately reject your claim, they must do so in writing and explain why.

When should I make my car insurance claim?

It depends on the type of insurance you have for your vehicle.

Comprehensive car insurance covers you for accidental loss or damage, third party insurance for damage to other people’s property and roadside assistance (such as towing) after an accident. If you have comprehensive car insurance – the broadest and most flexible insurance - there isn’t usually a time limit to make an insurance claim.

Compulsory third party (CTP) insurance, which is included as part of your car registration, covers accidental injury or death of third parties. If you’re making a CTP claim, you will need to check the regulations in your state or territory, as they vary between nine months and three years. In New South Wales, for example, a claimant has three months from the time of the crash to submit a claim for CTP Green Slip insurance. Any delay in submission will also delay the claims process.

What if the accident happened months ago?

There may be good reasons why you don’t make a claim immediately. You might be traumatised from the accident, or badly injured and taking time to recover, or there may be a disagreement over who is at fault.

Insurers generally encourage policyholders to lodge a claim as soon as they are able. The longer you leave it, the harder it may be for the insurer to assess the claim, particularly as recollections of events can deteriorate over time. It is also more complicated if there are other parties involved, including any witnesses.

And let's not forget the inconvenience of being without a car for any length of time - the quicker you get that claim in, the quicker the claims process should be, and the sooner you are likely to be back on the road.

 
 

What do I do if my insurance claim is rejected?

Ask your insurer if they can review their decision. This is also the time for you to review the original claim and see if there is any extra information you might have overlooked due to distress or injury and provide that to the insurer.

If the insurer still refuses to pay your claim or offers an amount you dispute, you can complain to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

Or lodge a complaint with us and we’ll help you handle it.