The majority of UK motorists will have some kind of accident during their motoring lives. Accidents can range from minor prangs to multi-car collisions that cause injuries or fatalities. Whenever property damage, injuries - or fatalities - occur, someone will be expected to pay - financially and/or in terms of punishment by law.
In the vast majority of cases, the relevant car insurance providers of the at-fault party (or parties) will cover any financial burdens.
If you are involved in an accident that WAS NOT your fault
If you are involved in a road traffic incident that was not your fault, and the at-fault party's insurer agrees to pay for any repairs or relevant personal injury costs, you should be reimbursed for all (or most) of the costs incurred.
However, if you claim for damage to your vehicle from your own insurer, you will be expected to pay your excess. This can be claimed back from the at-fault party's insurer, or as with some insurer's, may be waived if the third party insurer admits liability.
No claims bonus loss
If you have comprehensive car insurance, you can claim from your own provider. However, your no claims bonus may be lost if your insurer cannot recover the funds from the other motorist's insurer (in which case, that third party would be considered at-fault). If you were at-fault, or the other driver was uninsured, you will likely lose your no claims bonus.
If you are involved in an accident that WAS your fault
If it is determined that you were at-fault in a car accident, then your insurer will pay the costs associated with any damage caused to third party vehicles, and, if you have comprehensive cover, any damage to your own vehicle. If you only have third party cover, you will be liable for the repair costs for your own vehicle.
Your premium will almost certainly increase as a result of being deemed at-fault.
If you are in a car accident you may suffer uninsured losses, which might include things like loss of earnings, hire car, personal injury or policy excess. You can attempt to claim any uninsured losses from the other driver, if they are deemed liable.
However, if you are determined to have been liable, your insurer will cover the losses of the third party, but you won't be able to claim uninsured losses.
In all cases, whichever type of insurance you have, and wherever the fault lies, you should contact you insurer within the time period stated on your policy.
Note that liability may be split between you and other parties, as determined by the insurers.
Solicitors and claims management companies
In circumstances whereby you wish to claim back uninsured losses, you may need to seek the services of a solicitor or claims management company. These entities will either charge fees, or offer a no-win no-fee deal.
Some insurers offer a ‘legal assistance’ add-on service, which allows you to claim for things not covered by your contract of insurance. If you’ve taken this out, you wouldn’t need to hire a solicitor or claims management company.
Being hit by an uninsured driver: the cost to you
Driving without at least third party cover is illegal in the UK. The penalties are likely to be six licence penalty points, or a complete licence revocation if the offender is caught without insurance within two years of passing their test. A £200 fine is also levied. Repeat offenders may face a long driving ban.
However, despite these deterrents, some people still do drive without insurance. If they do, it will be difficult or impossible to make a claim against them. On the face of it, this could mean substantial costs to repair your vehicle. However, if you have been injured, or your car has been very badly damaged, you may be able to make a small claims court claim of up to £5,000. You may also be able to make a claim through the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB), who work with the DVLA and police to compensate those impacted by uninsured drivers.
However, any sums won through a small claims court are means-tested, so the amounts received could be very small - particularly if, for example, the offender has no job.
If you cause an accident through careless driving: costs
Most careless driving offences incur a Fixed Penalty notice of £100. However, if you endanger the lives of passengers, other road users or pedestrians, or cause an accident, you will be summoned to court automatically. The maximum financial penalty is £5,000. You may also be disqualified.