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.

Cheers Lifehacker

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Comments

    Grab your smartphone, get a picture of the other persons licence, the accident damage, the other cars licence plate and then grab their phone number. With all this info, even if the other person is a total prick after the fact your insurance can go ahead without you paying excess.

    My wife was rear ended two years ago and only got the name, phone number and licence plate of the other party, who then decided to be pricks after the fact and refuse to give any more details as they thought her car was too shit to cost them any money, even though repairing it would of cost more than the actual car. Ended up having to go down to the ATO and look the person up on the computer there to get enough details for the insurance company, as well as find out where the woman worked myself to give them an email and work number (ended up emailing govt departments pretending I was someone who hadn't seen her in a while in the suburb she said she was working in at [email protected] until I didn't get a bounce, and then she responded with a full signature block).

    Also, just because a bumper popped back out doesn't mean there wasn't any damage! Always get full details and have it checked out. I've known people with cars bent like a banana or boots/doors that don't open/close properly anymore because they let someone else get away with hitting them as all they could see was a scratch.

    Last edited 31/07/14 1:48 pm

      >, get a picture of the other persons licence,

      They're under no obligation to allow you photograph their license.

      http://www.lawassist.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au/lawassist/lawassist_car_accident/lawassist_after_an_accident/lawassist_exchange_details.html

        I think you'll find 99% of people are very co-operative at the scene, and don't think about anything like that until they get home and decide to be a total prick. Mild shock helps.

        Last edited 31/07/14 3:10 pm

        According to your reference: "It is an offence to not exchange details". Taking a photo would be the simplest and most efficient way of doing that.

          irrelevant, they still don't need to let you take a photo of their license.

          Yes, your name & phone number. Not your address, date of birth, and license number. No one has any need for that information.

            Actually you want their address. And it is useful to check if they are licensed to operate the vehicle and meeting any specified licence conditions. Your insurance company will thank you for it if you find a discrepancy.

              Papers please!

    Tldr: do exactly what your insurance company says you should. Easy.

    Report it to the police and do not admit fault, even if you know you were at fault.

    The one thing everyone is missing is witness's. Anyone that is around get them as in the event they later decline liability a witness is worth their weight in gold should your insurer need to issue on them . Also passengers can be used as witness's as well. But as always photos all driver details and license plate. (Source 5years in insurance in motor liability recoveries and settlements)

    What is admitting fault? If you say it to the person and no-one hears is it not the same as they claim it was your fault when disputed?

    A $50 dashcam has just been installed in my vehicle. Got fed up of all the people who can't drive in the dark/rain/wind and a number of near misses. That should sort the version of events out for me. At least for anything in front! Thinking about a rear facing one too.

      Which dash cam are you using?

        Just whatever the cheapest one in OfficeWorks was a couple of weeks ago when it was raining so I popped in there at lunchtime.
        As with a lot of things, you can spend crazy money. But this one loop records, has G-sensor, auto-power on etc. That's all I need: get in the car, it starts recording. bingo.

    When I had an accident, the other driver their left blinker on, but decide to drive straight ahead. They denied having a blinker on. So I called police. They have statement to police saying "I did not have any blinker on". So I pulled up dashcam footage, and showed police the driver lied in the statement they gave them. I didn't tell the other driver I had cam footage, I shouldn't need to.

    Last edited 31/07/14 10:14 pm

    I had a young dolly bird catch the side of my vehicle years ago. We pulled over, went through the procedures, got all the relevant details and she admitted to being at fault. But when I relayed this to the insurance, the rego didn't even exist, she was driving around on false plates, wish I would have got the cops involved at the time.
    The main frustration for me was that this girl was probably driving around with no insurance, no license and no morals. What if one day she killed someone when she shouldn't even be on the road.

    NSW Road & Maritime Services http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/geared/your_driving_skills/car_crashes/what_to_do_in_a_crash.html says:

    You have to call the police if anyone’s killed or hurt, if the other driver fails to stop or swap details, or if one or more of the vehicles need to be towed. If the other driver seems like they might be drunk or high, or there’s considerable damage to things other than cars, you also have to call the police.

    Swap details. You’ll both need:
    - Date, time and location of the crash.
    - The other driver’s details, including: full name and address.
    - The other car’s rego number, make and model.
    - The car owner’s full name, address and contact numbers (if the driver is not the owner).
    If possible:
    - The name and contact details of a willing witness.
    - The name of the police officer, their police station and contact details if the police attend the crash.
    - The name of the car owner’s insurance company, type of policy and policy number.

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