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It is a good idea to write a letter soon after the accident notifying the other driver of your intention to claim against them for the cost of the repairs. You should do this if it is going to take some time to get a repair quote. If the other driver has insurance they can pass the letter on to their insurance company.
Get at least two quotes to show they are fair and reasonable. Make sure the quotes are for the same work. The other person only has to pay for the lowest quote. Photocopy the quotes and keep the originals. If you paid for towing, photocopy your receipts and keep the originals. You do not have to use a repairer suggested by the other person.
The total amount of your claim should be the cost to repair your vehicle to the condition it was before the accident, plus any towing fees. If you were partly responsible for the accident (contributory negligence), you will claim the total less your percentage
If your vehicle is written-off, it means the cost to repair it is more than the vehicle is worth at wholesale (dealer’s) value. The total amount of your claim should be the wholesale value of your vehicle, plus any towing fees.
To calculate the value of your vehicle, find out its value before the accident and subtract the value of the vehicle as a wreck. For a small fee, Red Book (www.redbook.com.au) or Glass’s Guide (www.glassguide.com.au) will give you a certificate of the value of your vehicle before the accident. A car wrecker will be able to tell you the value of the vehicle as a wreck.
You should also contact a Department of Transport and Main Roads customer service centre and ask about cancelling the car registration and getting a refund.
The total amount of your claim should be the cost to repair the property to the condition it was in before the accident. For example, if a driver lost control of their vehicle and damaged your brick fence, you need to get a quote showing how much it will cost to repair your fence to its condition before the accident.
The aim of contacting the people responsible for the accident is to give them the chance to pay for the damage or negotiate with you to reach an agreement without having to go to court. Going to court should be a last resort as it is time consuming and can be costly and stressful.
When you have all your information ready, you should send a letter of demand to the other driver, outlining your claim for damages and including copies of quotes and towing receipts — see sample letter of demand(PDF, 59KB). The letter should be typed or neatly hand written.
If you know the people responsible for the accident have insurance, you should also send a letter to their insurance company outlining your claim — see sample letter of other person's insurer(PDF, 58KB). The insurance company will reply to your letter and either accept or deny they should pay for the accident. The insurer will probably want one of their assessors to inspect your vehicle.
Keep copies of all letters, quotes and receipts.
This can be used to work out an amount to be paid.
If you are having trouble reaching an agreement with another person’s insurer, you may be able to use the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).
Provided you are uninsured and the damage to your vehicle is less than $15,000, AFCA may be able to help you resolve your dispute by mediating between you and the insurer.
They can also give you information about how they deal with complaints like yours and will refer you to free financial counselling services.
Contact AFCA on 1800 931 678 or www.afca.org.au.
If there is no insurance company involved, you could consider mediation.
The Department of Justice and Attorney-General offers a mediation service. Mediation is a way of settling a dispute without taking legal action.
It lets you and the other driver meet together with two neutral mediators who will help you discuss the dispute. The mediators do not take sides, give advice or make decisions for you.
They help you to make your own decisions and work out an agreement that is acceptable and workable for both of you. Mediation can be arranged in around two weeks and is free.
Contact the Dispute Resolution Branch on (07) 3239 6007 (Brisbane callers) or 1800 017 288 (toll free for regional and rural callers), or www.justice.qld.gov.au
If you reach agreement, you should confirm this in writing to make sure it is a final agreement — see the sample agreement(PDF, 114KB).
If you don’t get a response from the people responsible for the accident, or their insurance company writes back refusing to accept their client was responsible for the accident, you have the option of taking legal action.
Before you decide to take people to court or the tribunal, ask yourself these questions:
If the answer to these questions is no, it may not be worth the effort and expense of taking legal action.
You should go ahead and get your car repaired if your claim cannot be settled quickly. You should take photos of the damage to your car and keep any quotes, invoices and receipts you receive.
It is important to be prepared before starting your claim. Write and date your statement explaining what happened in the accident. If anyone witnessed the accident and is willing to make a statement, ask them to write a statement explaining what they saw — see the sample witness statement(PDF, 101KB).
The person making the statement should include these details:
You may also want to gather other evidence to help your claim in court. You can take photographs or video footage of where the accident took place and the damage to your vehicle.