Ask LH: What Should I Do If I’m In A Car Accident?

Hi Lifehacker, What’s the procedure if you are in a car accident? And what if the other party does not have insurance? Thanks, Steer Me Right

Car accident picture from Shutterstock

Dear SMR,

That’s a pretty broad question! It obviously depends on the severity of the accident, whether other people were involved and the condition of your car after the smash. Other factors, such as your level of insurance and who was at fault, also play a big part.

Generally speaking, motorists are required by law to stop when they are involved in an accident with another driver; even if it’s just a minor ding. You must also provide your name and insurance details to any other parties who were involved. It’s also a good idea to switch on your hazard lights; especially if your car can’t be moved to the side of the road for some reason.

For serious accidents in which people were injured, the police must be contacted. This also applies if any property was damaged where the owner wasn’t present (a parked car or closed shopfront, for example.) Naturally, you’re not allowed to drive away afterwards if your vehicle was rendered unroadworthy by the accident.

When dealing with the other involved parties, it’s a good idea to avoid admitting fault regardless of the circumstances. This doesn’t mean you should lie about what happened, but just stick to opinion-free facts and let the insurers and/or police decide who was in the wrong. Willingly putting your head on the chopping block achieves nothing and could just complicate things.

It goes without saying that you should contact your insurer at the earliest opportunity. While this may affect your rating and result in higher premiums, it’s not something that can be avoided when a third party is involved. Once alerted, your insurer will work with all parties involved in order to determine responsibility.

If the other driver doesn’t have insurance, there are several courses of action you could take depending on your own level of insurance and who was actually at fault. If you have comprehensive car insurance, any damage to your vehicle will be repaired regardless.

Your insurer will then deal with the third party and try to recover the money for the damages. If the driver refuses to pay the debt, the insurance company may decide to take them to court. Thankfully, you won’t have to deal with any of this: it’s a matter between the insurer and the other driver.

Unfortunately, things can be a bit trickier if you only have basic third-party car insurance. Any damage to your vehicle won’t be your insurer’s problem. This means you either need to arrange some form of financial compensation privately or sue the other driver.

This can obviously be expensive and requires a lot of time, stress and effort. Plus, if the guilty party has no assets (which is likely if they’re driving around with no insurance) you’ll probably receive a big, steaming bowl of jack for your efforts. Tch.

If the accident was your fault, the other driver is basically up shit creek, although they could attempt to sue you for damages in court. (Thankfully, all registered vehicles have compulsory third party insurance by default, which covers your legal liability for accidents resulting in injury or death.)

Have any readers ever been involved in an accident with somebody who didn’t have insurance? What happened? Share your stories and opinions with SMR in the comments section below.


Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our [contact text=”contact form”].

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


16 responses to “Ask LH: What Should I Do If I’m In A Car Accident?”