Road Traffic Accidents : Understanding An Insurance Write-Off ?

If a person is unfortunate enough to be involved in an automobile accident which leads to irrepairable damage, whereby car safety cannot be guaranteed due to the amount of damage sustained or the economical cost to repair it is not worthwhile, then it will be termed as an insurance ‘write-off’.


As a consequence of irreversible damage leading to car safety problems then the driver will be paid out for their vehicle. Whilst uneconomical repairs is an amount calculated by a repair-to-value ratio and may vary for different insurance companies and vehicles. For example, if a vehicle was worth £8000 and the repair-to-value ratio for the company was 50%, then the vehicle would be considered beyond economical repair if the cost required exceeded £4000. Insurance companies employ specialists and assessors to review and ascertain the financial nature of the accident damage and repairs.


Sometimes write-offs of vehicles do not seem to make sense and seem to be carried out for frivolous reasons whereby the automobile could have been made roadworthy. However, insurance companies have a broad range of criteria and guidelines which need to be employed to repair a vehicle to its original state, such as actual cost of parts required, identifying suitable garages and mechanics, timelines for repairs, administration costs, and so on, which means it may not become financially feasible. For a relatively newer automobile, superficial external or internal damage can be expensive to repair and is usually written off by assessors in many cases.


Insurance specialists and assessors categorise the accident damage into different classifications, permanent and non-permanent, and this determines whether an automobile owner still retains any options to purchase or not a written off vehicle. There are currently four categories of vehicle damage severity according to the ABI Salvage Code, each differing in a stepwise manner from each other :


  1. Category A : Vehicles To Be Scrapped only
  • Irrepairably damaged vehicles and their component parts must be fully and permanently destroyed.


  1. Category B : Vehicle Body Shell To Be Scrapped
  • Highly damaged vehicles which must be permanently destroyed, however some of their reclaimed component parts can be re-used in other automobiles.


  1. Category S (previously known as Category C) : Vehicles With Structural Damage
  • Damaged parts maybe professionally repaired and re-used making the automobile safe to drive. Safe, Serviceable parts can be re-used and re-sold to any suitable party. The DVLA must be informed by the owner once a vehicle is written-off by submitting a V23 form.


  1. Category N (previously known as Category D) : Vehicles With Non-Structural Faults
  • Superficial damage maybe suitably repaired making the automobiles safe to drive Safe, Serviceable parts can be re-used and re-sold to any suitable party.


People need to be wary of supposedly picking up a cheap bargain in categories S and N, because using cheaper labour or parts to repair automobiles to a lower benchmark standard than any insurance company would, could cause health and safety problems in the long term. Scrupulous dealers may try to sell these cars as non-damaged cars by concealing their past and therefore end up paying inflated market prices, thus causing long term heartache and pain. All drivers need to be better informed about potential pitfalls.


Dr Ghulam S Ashraf – Content Writer for

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