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How to make an insurance claim

If you’ve never made a claim before, here’s how to do it – and make it go as smoothly as possible.

Insurance is something you buy in the hope that you’ll never use it. But when something goes wrong that you’re covered for, you’re very glad it’s there for you.

This article covers general insurance claims. If you need to make a claim for health insurance, life insurance, critical illness or income protection, contact your insurer to find out exactly what you need to do.

Your insurance claim checklist

Has a crime been committed?

If you’ve had something stolen or vandalised, the first thing you should do is call the police. They'll give you a crime reference number for you to pass on to your insurer.

Your policy may have a time limit to report a crime. Others ask you to do it as soon as reasonably possible. The sooner you report it, the better.

Is it an emergency?

If you’ve been taken ill while outside the UK or if there’s an emergency in your home, call your insurer for on-the-spot advice.

Most operate 24-hour claims lines and will tell you what you need to do next. If you don’t have their number to hand, you’ll be able to find it on their website.

If you have an HSBC policy, you can find the claims numbers below:

Record what’s happened

The more evidence you have, the more straightforward your claim should be. Make notes of dates and times and the details of what happened. Take photos or videos of any damage. Make lists of any stolen items. Ask for and keep hold of the details of anyone else involved.

Check your policy documents

If it’s not an emergency, you may want to review your policy documents before calling your insurer. That way, you can check if there’s an excess to pay and if there’s a certain procedure you need to follow.

For example, some car and home insurance policies specify that approved companies need to do the repairs. Some insurers may even arrange the repairs for you.

If you can’t find your policy documents, don’t worry. Your insurer should be able to identify you from your address and tell you if you have a valid claim. 

Contact your insurer

Contact your insurer as soon as possible – even if you don’t yet know the full extent of the damage or loss. Your policy might have a time limit for making claims. Even if it hasn’t, it’s best to make your claim while the information is fresh in your mind.

With some policies, for example with our Home Insurance, you can make your claim online. If you’re claiming by phone, make sure you’ve got all the details to hand before you call, including:

  • what happened
  • when it happened
  • details of any companies or people involved

Be clear (and honest)

For most types of claims, your insurer will take the details over the phone or online – although some may ask you to fill in a form.

When it comes to making your insurance claim, be clear about what happened and what you'd like replacing or how much money you’re claiming for.

In many cases, the insurer will take you at your word. However, you may be asked for proof of the loss or damage, or evidence that you own the items you’re claiming for.

Examples of documents needed for an insurance claim

  • photos of items and any damage
  • receipts, online invoices or valuations for expensive items
  • product make, model and serial numbers
  • booking confirmations and flight numbers
  • police reports
  • medical certificates

Don't overstate the value of the loss or damage as this could lead to your claim being rejected.

Keep notes throughout the process

Any time you have a phone call with your insurer, or anyone else related to the claim, make notes about what they say and record the time and date. Keep copies of all emails and letters you’ve received and sent. This can help you recall events later on.

Straightforward claims can be resolved and paid out within days. Complex claims may take longer. Once you’ve reported all the relevant information to your insurer, they should be able to tell you how long it will take.