You saw it in the corner of your eye but by the time you reacted and slammed on your brakes it was too late: CRASH!
Now what? You’re probably feeling numb, in disbelief, distressed and maybe even angry. Your car is a wreck and so is your mind. So, what do you do?
Car accidents (especially when you are not at fault) can leave you feeling powerless and unprepared. Knowing the steps you should take if you have a car accident can help you feel prepared and give you focus when you are in an unstable emotional state.
1. Safety first
- Safely stop your car
- Turn off your engine
- Turn on your hazard lights/lights/indicator to make other vehicles aware of the accident
2. Keep calm and make a call
Call the police. If there is a death or injury as a result of the accident or to report a hazardous environment or threat to public safety, including traffic congestion (e.g. fuel spill, power lines down).
Call an ambulance. If there are any injuries or death as a result of the accident you should also call an ambulance. Don’t move seriously injured people from their vehicles unless it is critical to do so e.g there is a risk of fire or explosion or they are unsafe.
Call 131 444 for Policelink. If there is suspicion of drugs and/or alcohol contributing to the accident or if a driver with an impairment or disability requires police assistance.
Even if there are no injuries or risks, you are still required by law to report the accident to the police. This can be done via the Policelink smart phone app, completing a form online via the Policelink website or by calling Policelink on 131 444.
3. Get car accident details
Make sure you exchange important details with others involved in the accident (drivers, owners of damaged property, injured persons, witnesses), including:
- name and address
- the name and address of the owner of the vehicle (if the driver isn't the owner)
- the vehicle registration number
- any other information necessary to identify the vehicle
If anyone involved fails or refuses to provide you with these details then you should contact Policelink immediately on 131 444.
You might have trouble remembering details after the accident so it will be helpful for you to record the:
- time and date of accident
- location – screenshot of your location on smartphone map could be helpful
- weather conditions e.g. sunny, dusk, misty, heavy rain and so on.
- traffic conditions e.g. quite / busy, roadworks and so on.
- details of all vehicles involved including make, model, registration number, condition, direction of travel and so on.
- state of your vehicle by taking photos on your phone. It is also worth checking if any CCTV cameras are in the area or if any witnesses have dash camera footage.
4. Call your insurer
You should also report the accident to your insurer, even if you don’t plan to make a claim. There are two reasons for this: firstly, the other person may make a claim against you, and secondly, most insurance policies place a duty on you to disclose any accidents and a breach of that duty could invalidate your insurance.
Claims for personal injuries (as opposed to damage to cars and property) must be lodged with the CTP insurer of the driver responsible for the accident. Check out what you can claim when you are injured in a car accident.
5. Look after yourself
See your doctor. Even if you don't feel like you need medical attention at the time of an accident, it's important to check in with your doctor shortly after as injuries and shock can take a while to kick in.
In addition, if you feel like you need to seek compensation for any injuries you suffered as a result of the accident, you will need to submit a medical certificate as part of your claim.
Seek expert advice as soon as possible. If you are lodging a notice of claim for compensation for personal injury it’s important you don’t delay in taking the necessary steps, otherwise you run the risk of your claim being rejected. There are time limits that apply to making a claim If you have been injured in a car accident.