Inform the insurance company as soon as you can following the event. It is sometimes a good idea to write the details of the event as soon as you can, and then use that as a reference to make the written claim.
Be consistent. Remember, it will be awkward if you want to change your story later on.
Keep all documents that are relevant to the claim.
Make sure the staff of the insurance company can get in touch with you.
If the claim is rejected?
There are circumstances where you may in fact have the legal right to be reimbursed for your loss even though the insurer refused to pay the claim.
Although you can sometimes make this judgement yourself, it is sometimes a good idea to get legal advice. See our fact sheets on "Disputes".
Check the policy
If the claim is rejected ask your insurer to identify specifically the clause of the contract on which they rely. If you do not have a current policy make sure they supply one.
What caused the loss?
If the insurer claims that you caused the loss, and this is in breach of the policy, make sure that this is so.
For instance, if you were smoking in bed at the time of a fire, and a fire caused this way is a breach of your policy, you may not in fact be in breach if the fire was caused by an electrical fault.
In this case the fact that you were smoking in bed would be coincidental and not the cause of the fire.
Another example is theft insurance – the policy may exclude claims from unlocked premises or unlocked vehicles.
The policy may stipulate that a known pre-existing situation or condition is not covered. For instance, if you have disability insurance but at the time you signed the policy you had a tumor.
However, under the law it may be crucial whether you actually knew you had this condition.
Ignorance of the terms
Under the law the insurer has a legal obligation to inform you about the restrictions in the insurance policy. This must be done before you sign the application and the policy is issued. This means (in part) that:
- you must be given a copy of the policy; and
- the wording of the policy must be clear and unambiguous.
If these pre-conditions were not met it may be possible to retain your coverage for your loss. Again, it may be necessary to obtain legal advice.
Is it worth the claim?
Many types of insurance contracts will have an excess. This is common in a car insurance contract, or similarly you may lose part of the no-claims bonus. Some companies now reward rating one drivers with a lifetime rating one guarantee.
At times you will have to decide whether the amount of the claim is worth the long term loss that results from the effect on rating or no-claims bonuses, especially after taking into account the amount of the excess.
Some specific claims
Does your policy cover flood? Do not assume this is the case - insurance companies describe water damage in different ways e.g. "storm damage", which is usually covered by household policies, is different from flood damage which may not be covered.
How about terrorism? Some home building and contents policies exclude damage caused by terrorism, so check with your insurer if this is something that concerns you.
Last Updated – April 2010