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My vehicle (or other property) was damaged in a car accident—what should I do?

Step 1. Gather information about the accident

You’ll need:

  • the make, model, colour and registration details of the vehicles involved
  • the full names and addresses of the owners and drivers of each vehicle involved (your claim is against the people responsible for the accident, usually the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident – if the driver is not the owner, get legal advice about whether to make a claim against the owner and the driver) details of any witnesses who saw the accident, including their full names, addresses and phone numbers
  • photos of the accident scene taken before the vehicles are moved (if possible)
  • a copy of the Traffic Accident Report (a report will only be available if police investigated the accident); to get this information you will have to fill out an application and pay a small fee – contact CITEC Confirm on (07) 3222 2700 or 1800 773 773 (toll free), or www.confirm.com.au

Step 2. Work out who caused the accident

Work out who is responsible for causing the accident. The person who caused the accident is liable to pay for the damage.

If you caused the accident, you or your insurance company should pay for the damage to your vehicle and the other person’s vehicle. If the other driver caused the accident, they or their insurance company should pay.

If someone or something else caused the accident (for example, a pedestrian or a dog running across the road), you should get legal advice about how to recover your costs. This guide only deals with accidents caused by one or both drivers.

What are my options if the other driver caused the accident?

  1. If you have comprehensive insurance you can make a claim on your policy to cover the cost of the damage. The insurance company will then handle all negotiations with the other driver.
  2. You can make a claim against the other driver and negotiate with them to pay for the costs (see Step 3. Contact the people responsible for the accident and try to negotiate an agreement in If you want to claim against the other driver).
  3. If negotiations don’t work you can take them to court (see Step 5. Consider legal action in If you want to make a claim against the other driver).

What are my options if I caused the accident?

If you have comprehensive insurance or third-party property insurance, you should notify your insurance company immediately. The insurance company will handle all the negotiations with the other driver.

What if I don’t have insurance?

  1. If the other person asks you to pay and you believe their claim is fair and reasonable, you can go ahead and pay them.
  2. If you do not believe their claim (for who caused the accident or the amount) is fair and reasonable, you can try to negotiate an agreement with them.
  3. If negotiations don’t work, you should get legal advice about how to defend a claim against you.
  4. Always try negotiating rather than going to court.

What if more than one driver caused the accident?

If both drivers were partly responsible for causing the accident, they should each pay for the portion of the damage they caused. For example, if there is an accident in which one driver fails to give way and the other driver is speeding, both drivers’ actions have contributed to causing the accident and the damage.

‘Contributory negligence’ is the term used when more than one person causes an accident. Let’s say driver Andrew Smith is 20 percent responsible and driver Anne Cremer is 80 percent responsible for causing the accident, and the cost of the damage to Andrew Smith’s car is $5000 and the cost of the damage to Anne Cremer’s car is $10,000.

The claims the drivers would have against each other are:

  • Andrew Smith claims 80 percent of his damage from Anne Cremer (80 percent of $5000) = $4000
  • Anne Cremer claims 20 percent of her damage from Andrew Smith (20 percent of $10,000) = $2000
  • Therefore, they would settle the claim by Anne Cremer paying Andrew Smith $2000.

How is the percentage of responsibility for the accident worked out?

The two drivers can try to work out the percentage of responsibility for the accident, or if the case goes to court, the court can decide it. In most situations, it is better for everyone involved in the accident to negotiate and reach an agreement about how to pay the damage bill without going to court.

To work out the percentage of responsibility, think about your driving and the other person’s driving at the time of the accident, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Would other reasonable drivers have done the same thing in the same situation?
  • Did I and the other drivers give full attention to the road conditions and their driving?
  • Did I and the other drivers break any road rules, like not stopping at a red light, speeding, drink driving or not giving way?
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