Driving and accidents

Driving and accidents

If you are in an accident you must stop and assist. Even if nobody is hurt, you have to exchange details with the other driver or the owner of any property that is damaged. It is an offence to leave the scene of a vehicle accident without doing this.

If the police attend the accident scene they will interview the people involved and any other witnesses. Police may charge the drivers with breaking the road laws.

If someone causes a crash, they are responsible for any damage they cause. A claim for the cost of repairs to a damaged car can be made through an insurance company or through the courts, if necessary.

Reporting the accident to the police

You must report the accident to the police if:

  • anyone’s property is damaged
  • the other person involved in the accident does not stop or refuses to give their details.

Police may not attend the accident scene unless someone has been injured. If police attend the scene, they will usually test drivers for alcohol or other drugs. It is a serious offence to refuse this test.

What you should do

Take time to write down carefully all of the details such as the time, date and location where the accident happened and the names and contact details of any witnesses. Note down the speed you believe you were travelling at and even the weather conditions. It will help if you draw a diagram.

What the police will do

The police will investigate by talking to the drivers and any other witnesses. They will write a report. This report may be important if there is a dispute about who was at fault.

Do not admit that an accident was your fault. You may not be qualified to decide this and making this admission could be used as evidence against you if there is a dispute.

If you have broken any road laws the police may:

  • issue you with a fine
  • charge you with an offence.

If you are charged you will have to go to court.

Insurance

If you have insurance let your insurer know about the accident as soon as possible after the accident. This is important, even if you decide not to make a claim against your insurance.

Most insurance policies say that you have to notify the insurer of any accident. This is called a ‘duty of disclosure’. Notifying your insurer also allows you to make a claim later if the damage is going to cost more than you thought.

There are different levels of insurance cover. You may only be insured for damage to vehicles and property that belongs to others. This is called third party insurance.

Comprehensive insurance policies cover damage to your vehicle too. In most cases you will have to pay some of the money. This is called the excess. The amount you have to pay depends on your insurance policy.

The kind of protection you have depends on what the insurance policy says. You should always read the policy carefully before you sign it and ask if there is anything that you do not understand.

If a person is injured

Insurance for personal injury is included in the cost of vehicle registration and is administered by the Transport Accident Commission. This is a government organisation that pays medical costs for people who are injured in a motor vehicle accident.

If the driver was drunk or drug affected

Usually an insurance policy will exclude a driver who was:

Other illegal behaviour, such as if the driver was driving without a licence or involved in a speed race, may also mean that you are not covered by the policy.

If you or the other driver have no insurance

It is not compulsory to get insurance to cover property damage.

If the accident was your fault

If you are not insured and the accident was your fault, the other driver’s insurance company will try to recover the money for the damages. If you don’t pay the debt the insurance company can take you to court.

If the other driver does not have insurance the other driver may sue you for damages.

A community legal centre may be able to help you. See Get help.

If the accident was not your fault

If the accident was not your fault you will need to decide whether to sue the other driver for damages.

Get a quote to find out how much the vehicle will cost to repair.

Taking the other party to court could be expensive and if that driver has no job, assets or money it may be difficult to recover the money even if you win. The court may also decide that both parties were partly at fault.

Another way of getting the money is to try mediation. The Dispute Settlement Centre can help you to discuss this with the other party and reach an agreement.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with traffic offences.