Complaints about insurance policies have spiralled, with independent investigators handling almost 12,000 a year.
The Financial Ombudsman receives around 125 letters and phone calls a week about car insurance
The Financial Ombudsman receives around 125 letters and phone calls a week about car insurance — up more than a quarter on last year. And it's also seeing more problems than ever for home and travel insurance policies.
While some of these are serious, many are the result of confusion over the wording of policies and the way the claim was made.
Here, Money Mail guides you through how to ensure your insurance claim goes smoothly.
• If anyone has been injured or the accident has caused a road traffic danger, then call 999. Also do this if the other driver leaves without stopping or if they are drunk.
• Do not admit blame or liability for the incident or offer to pay for any damage. If the other driver does, tell your insurer.
• Get the names, addresses and telephone numbers of anyone involved, including witnesses. Make a note of the time and date.
• Ask the other driver for their insurance policy details. They have to give you this by law.
• If you have a camera on your mobile phone, take a picture of any vehicles involved. This can be really helpful if the other driver tries to shift the blame.
• While the incident is fresh in your mind, make a drawing of the road layout and where everyone was.
• Record as much detail as possible, such as weather and speed limits.
• If the police come, get their names and 'collar numbers'. Give this to your insurer.
• Inform your insurer as soon as possible.
• If something goes wrong, such as a leaky pipe, call your insurer before a repairman. Your insurance firm may have recommended emergency assistance firms that can get to you quickly. Most insurers have 24-hour hotlines.
• The emergency assistance offer may come as standard, but it may be an extra. Check your policy.
Follow your insurer's instructions to the letter and submit all claims before any deadline.
• Only once you are confident that the emergency repairs are being done should you consider the damage to your home. Take pictures of any damage. Providing your insurer with as much detail as possible will speed up the process.
• If you are making a claim about possessions, you may be asked to produce proof of purchase. So when you buy expensive items ensure they are covered on your policy and you have the receipts.
• Don't exaggerate. False information on a claim can lead to the whole claim being rejected.
• You could invalidate your claim if you fall ill on holiday when you were on medication for something you hadn't told your insurer about.
• The premiums may be cheaper if you are in perfect health, but it is not worth taking the risk in case things go wrong.
• Most insurers offer a 24-hour emergency line — unlike with home insurance, you can contact them after the event.
• Keep a record of everything you need and extra costs incurred. Always let the insurer know what's happening and run the costs by them.
• For theft, you need a written police report within 24 hours of the incident. You cannot do this when you get home.
• You may also need a letter from a local tour guide or hotel, if the loss occurred when your items were in their care.
• Keep a record of what happened, where and when — and what precautions you took to avoid loss.
• Consider the policy excess you have to pay yourself. It may well be that your loss is so small, it is less than your insurance excess.
You have a right to complain about rejected claims, but if the insurer sticks to its guns, contact the Financial Ombudsman Service. Call 0845 080 1800 or email complaint.info@financialombudsman.
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