Motor Insurance Claims – Are You At Fault and Who Decides?

Posted Jun 26, 2019.

Being involved in a car accident – or indeed other similar accidents involving a van, motorbike or any motor vehicle – can result in anything from a relatively insignificant nuisance right through to an extremely serious, life changing experience. 

A motor insurance accident will usually involve a claim on an insurance policy, and a common theme in virtually all such accidents is that there will be a financial cost involved.  In the UK, insurance for cars, motorbikes, vans and other vehicles is compulsory, with the legal minimum being a policy that will cover damages, injuries and other losses suffered by other people involved who are deemed to be not at fault.

How is ‘fault’ or liability decided? 

From an individual driver’s point of view, being involved in a motor vehicle accident can lead to frustrations when it comes to deciding who is at fault – that is, which party (or parties) are held liable for the costs resulting from the accident. Sure, if you have fully comprehensive insurance your car will be repaired or replaced in any event, but there will often be many other factors that may impact on you financially if you are deemed to be at fault.

An insurance company will deem a driver to be ‘at fault’ in the event that, following an accident, they have to (or will have to) pay out money on a claim that they can’t recover from another party. Before any decision is made, an insurer will take into account your version of events, supported by any related evidence, and will also get to find out what the other person or people involved have to say. Having an independent witness makes a big difference in deciding who is at fault. Big discrepancies or inconsistencies in your account or gaps in evidence will not help; but if the detail and coherence provided is good, then your insurer is much better placed to fight your corner and dispute liability.

Being ‘at fault’ – the financial impact

Being deemed ‘at fault’ by an insurance company can affect a policyholder financially in three main ways:

Driving Record – most insurers will want to know about all claims or accidents a policyholder has been involved in over the past 3 to 6 years. In particular, claims where the policyholder or any other drivers named on the policy were deemed to be at fault – no matter what the individual drivers may feel about being ‘to blame’ – can mean that a higher premium will be applied as the insurer will perceive you to be a higher risk with regard to possible future claims.

Policy Excess – most fully comprehensive and some third party insurance policies will have an excess. This is the amount that the policyholder is liable to pay themselves in the event of a claim. An excess is only recoverable from another party’s insurer if the claim is not your fault; otherwise, you will lose this money. 

No Claims Discount – most motor insurers provide discounts on insurance premiums for each year that a policy holder remains claim-free – or more specifically, ‘at fault’ claim-free. Being deemed to be ‘at fault’ following an accident means that you may lose some – or all – of your no claims discount, resulting in higher premiums over the following years.

What if liability is disputed?

Insurers will always try to agree liability between themselves in the event of a claim. Due to the number of motor accidents in the UK and the many years of records and experience that motor insurers hold, there are not many claims where liability (that is, who is at fault) cannot be resolved in this way.  If the insurers involved cannot decide who is at fault, then the claim may go to court for an independent assessment and judgement on liability and costs.Insurers will sometimes settle claims on a ’50:50’ basis – that is, where liability is apportioned to both parties involved in the claim. Whilst this can make good economic sense to your insurance company, saving them a large legal costs bill if the claim goes to court, a ’50:50’ or any other such ‘joint liability’ decision will still affect the policyholder as an ‘at fault’ claim.

Professional Help with Insurance Disputes

At Bakers Solicitors, disputed insurance claim cases are dealt with on a no win, no fee basis. There is no upfront or unexpected costs, so if you feel you have been treated unfairly by an insurance company please contact us today for friendly and professional assistance. You can contact us by email, arrange a free consultation online or ring us on FREE on 0800 731 7284.