Do I have to report an accident?
You have to report an accident to the police if anyone was injured or died as a result of the accident. Most insurance policies require you to report the accident to your insurer as soon as possible. It is a good idea to report any accident that you have even if you do not intend to make a claim because the other driver may claim against you.
What happens if I receive a letter of demand for damage to somebody's car?
If you are insured you can pass the letter of demand to your insurer. Most insurance policies have an excess which means you have to pay the amount of the excess before the insurance company will accept the claim.
If you are not insured and you receive a letter of demand this means that the other driver or their insurer is holding you responsible for the accident and is wanting compensation.
You need to think about whether you are fully or partially responsible for the accident. This is called liability. Liability can be shared between both drivers if they are both at fault. You should get legal advice about your liability.
You can ask for evidence of the amount of damage being claimed against you eg quotes or valuations. This is called quantum.
When you have the information you should negotiate with the insurer or the other driver. You should get legal advice before you start negotiating.
If you also have damage to your own car from the accident and the other driver is partially to blame, you may have a counter claim, ie you claim against the other driver for the damage to your car when they claim against you. You should get legal advice about your liability if you think this applies to you.
If you cannot reach an agreement you may go to court. If it is valued at less than $25,000 it may go to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). You should get legal advice about going to court.
What happens if I want to make a claim for damage to my car?
If the car is able to be repaired you should obtain two written quotes from qualified repairers for both labour and parts or, if the car cannot be repaired, obtain two written valuations from car yards, qualified panel beaters or other expert valuers (eg car clubs) of its pre accident value.
Next calculate the amount to claim for the car, either:
- lowest quote for repairs + any other necessary costs such as towing
- lowest valuation for the pre accident value + any other necessary costs such as towing + storage less salvage value ie value of the wreck.
Send a letter of demand enclosing copies of quotes/valuations to the owner and driver of the other vehicle and to their insurer asking for payment within a fixed time period eg 14 days. If the owner and the driver are not the same person, a separate letter should be sent to each person.
If the other party doesn't pay the amount owing within the time specified in the letter of demand or neither they or their insurer respond at all then you can take action in the Civil Courts or where the amount is $25,000 or less in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
The Financial Ombudsman Service may be able to assist you if you have a dispute with another person's insurance company in relation to motor vehicle property damage. You should get legal advice before lodging a dispute with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
How do I find out the owner's name if I don't know it?
If you do not know the name of the owner, but you have the registration number, you can find out the name by conducting a search of the Queensland Motor Vehicle Register at your nearest Department of Transport and Main Roads Customer Service Centre. You will need to fill out an application and pay a fee.
The information requested must be about the vehicle(s) that were involved in the incident/accident. To support the application you must supply one or more of the following:
- police motor vehicle incident report
- written permission from the registered operator
- official request on letterhead from your insurance company, solicitor or lawyer which supports the vehicle incident/accident report
- statutory declaration: describing the off-road incident and property damage, with a copy of any available witness statements
- statutory declaration: describing the incident, with a repair quote
How much time do I have to claim for motor vehicle property damage?
You have to claim within six years.