This article concentrates on successfully claiming for compensation for damage caused by a motor vehicle accident in Queensland. Different laws apply in other states and territories.
If a motor vehicle is damaged in an accident, the owner of the motor vehicle has three choices available to them:
- 1. Claim from their own comprehensive insurer;
- Pay for the costs of any repairs to fix the damage;
- Claim the costs of any repairs from the other party at fault.
If a motor vehicle is covered by a comprehensive insurance policy, it will become relevant who, if anybody, was negligent in causing the accident. Other factors will include the excess payable on the policy, whether the other party is insured or has assets sufficient to meet the costs of repairs, any legal costs involved, the cost of repairing the damage to the motor vehicle, and the cost of repairing the other party’s motor vehicle.
Was either party negligent?
Determining whether a driver was negligent can be complicated. In most cases, it is almost impossible to determine that only one party in a motor vehicle accident was at fault. In those cases, the court has the power to apportion the damages as appropriate between the parties according to the degree of each party’s negligence in causing the accident (i.e. one driver might be held to be 90% responsible for an accident, while the other party may be deemed to be 10% responsible). This is called ‘contributory negligence’ because one party is sharing responsibility for an accident primarily caused by the other.
More rarely, there are situations where just one party has been negligent. This would include circumstances where one party is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, where one party is excessively speeding, or where one party fails to stop at a red light or stop sign.
What if the other party is uninsured?
Sometimes the other party in an accident is not insured but is found to be at fault. In this situation, it is important to consider the financial position of the other party and whether they will be able to pay for the repairs. This is particularly important when balancing the costs of commencing legal proceedings.
It is important to note that if the driver was not the owner of the motor vehicle, it will be unlikely that the owner will be responsible for any property damage caused by the accident unless the driver was acting as the owner’s agent at the time of the accident. For example, if the driver was an employee of the owner and was acting in the course of their employment the owner may be responsible. Otherwise, only the driver can be pursued for any damage arising from the accident.
What to do in a motor vehicle accident
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, you should try to obtain the other party’s name and address at the time of the accident. If you are unable to obtain this information, you should try to remember the registration number as a search can be conducted at a later time.
Following the accident, the costs of repairs to the motor vehicle should be assessed by a reputable repairer. A written quote providing the costs of parts and labour must be obtained. Once quotes have been obtained for the costs of repairs, you should obtain legal advice with respect to the steps moving forward. It may be advised that a letter of demand should be sent to the other party, or their insurer, if they have one.
If no reply is received or the other party does not accept liability for causing the accident, then you will have to consider whether to commence legal proceedings. We would strongly recommend seeking the assistance of a solicitor prior to commencing legal proceedings.
Please note that there is a strict time limitation to make claims for motor vehicle property damage so you should make a claim as soon as possible after the accident occurs.
Please be aware that if you are involved in motor vehicle accident, you may have some legal obligations prior to leaving the scene. Importantly, accidents must be reported to the police if anyone is injured or dies. If someone is injured in the accident, you must remain at the accident scene and render assistance until authorities, such as the police or ambulance services, arrive at the scene.
If police attend the scene of the accident, they may ask you questions about what happened and test any drivers involved. It is an offence not to give certain information to the police, or to give false information to the police about an accident.
If you are charged with an offence as a result of an accident, seek immediate legal advice.
If you require legal advice or representation in relation to a motor vehicle compensation matter or any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.