What should I do if I’m involved in a car accident?
Follow this helpful list of dos and don'ts after a crash, and ways to avoid a breakdown altogether.
Assess the situation
Stop your vehicle immediately and give assistance to anyone who may have been injured during the accident. If anyone has been injured or if the other driver doesn’t provide you with their name and address but you have their vehicle registration number, we recommend you notify the nearest police station within 24 hours or as soon as possible.
Exchange details with the drivers and owners of the vehicles involved or any other person whose property is damaged as a result of the accident, including name, address, vehicle registration and description.
If another driver refuses to give their required details (name, address, vehicle registration and enough information to identify their vehicle) and if you’ve noted their vehicle registration number, you can report the accident to the police regardless of the extent of the damage to your own vehicle.
If the other driver has not provided the required details, you’ll need to claim against them either through your own insurance company if you have full comprehensive motor vehicle insurance or through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to recover either the cost of the repairs or the market value of your vehicle.
You’re not obligated to give your insurance or licence details to any other party, but you are required to give your licence details to the police if they request them.
Remove any traffic hazards
If the vehicles are not obstructing the flow of traffic, they shouldn’t be removed until police have arrived. If they are obstructing the traffic, move the vehicles off to the side of the road after the point of impact has been agreed upon and marked on the road where possible.
You may need a tow truck, but you are not obligated to have your car towed by tow trucks that arrive at the scene of the accident without being called. Tow trucks cannot tow a vehicle without a signed tow authority, unless they are directed by the police (the vehicle may be causing a further traffic hazard).
Clear away any glass or other material that may cause a traffic hazard.
Confirm the details
Confirm the time and location of the accident with other parties. We suggest you don’t admit liability at the scene of the accident because this could have insurance implications.
Who is at fault in rear-end collisions?
In most circumstances, if only two cars are involved in an accident, the car that hit from behind is liable.
When there are three or more cars involved in a pile-up, it’s necessary to determine if the car immediately behind hit first, or whether it had stopped in time and was pushed by the car behind it. If this can be clearly determined, the car at the rear is responsible.
If it cannot be determined who was at fault and you are not insured, a claim can be made to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT ) if the amount of your claim is less than $25,000. You will need to name both parties as the first and second defendants.
In situations where a car rolls back into a stationary vehicle behind it, it is the front car that is liable regardless of how close the rear vehicle was behind. In the absence of any independent witnesses however, it is difficult to prove a situation like this, unless the owner of the forward vehicle willingly admits liability.
What if I hit an illegally parked car?
Depending on the circumstances of each case, you might be liable for a traffic infringement notice and fine, and/or damages to the vehicle you hit. If the illegally parked car is on the road side too close to a corner, but the police think you should have seen it, you might be charged with driving without due care and attention.
This offence will result in the loss of three licence demerit points and the penalty will be in the discretion of the Magistrate hearing the matter. As this is a serious offence, if you are charged with driving without due care and attention, you should obtain legal advice.
If the car you hit was in the middle of the road in the face of oncoming traffic with no hazard lights on, and there was no way you could safely avoid it, different considerations would apply.
Animals on the road
Queensland regulations state that all dogs much be kept confined, and if they’re not on your property, they need to be on a lead. If a domestic pet roams the neighbourhood without restraint, and it runs in front of your car causing an accident, you may have recourse against the pet owner for negligence. However, if the pet is usually kept restrained and on one occasion it accidentally escapes from the owner’s yard, then it may be difficult to prove negligence against the pet owner.
Queensland still adopts the Common Law which states that an animal has right of way over a vehicle on the roadway. The by-laws vary according to different areas around Queensland, and often differentiate between farm and domestic animals. In areas where the road passes through open range country the Common Law applies.
Shopping centre accidents
When both cars are reversing from opposite car parks, then both parties are equally liable and should agree to share the total damage bill, or each agree to repair their own vehicle.
If one car had stopped reversing and was stationary at the point of impact, then the other car who continued to reverse is liable for damage to both vehicles. The problem in these types of situations is that often the parties disagree as to what the exact circumstances were.
If only one car was reversing and they reversed into a stationary vehicle (regardless of whether it was parked legally or not) then the driver of the reversing car is usually liable for damage to both vehicles.
If a driver hits a parked vehicle and is unable to find the owner of the hit car, it is not enough for the person to leave their name, address and registration number on the windscreen of the parked car and drive away.
If you’re unable to find the owner of the car, you need to report the matter to the police as soon as possible. If you fail to do so, you could be charged by the police with failing to provide your driver particulars.
Accidents caused by open car doors
If an accident is caused by an open car door, the person leaving the door open is likely to be liable for any damages. This is because you cannot cause a hazard to anyone by the way you open a car door, or get off or out of a vehicle. If you do, you could be charged with a traffic offence.
Damage caused by potholes
A local council or authority in Queensland is not liable in any legal proceedings for any damage caused by potholes, unless it can be shown that the local council or authority had knowledge of the particular risk that caused damage.
Legal action against a local council or authority (e.g. the Department of Transport and Main Roads) must take place in the in the Magistrates Court, not the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal
Lawyers are entitled to appear in the Magistrates Court, and costs may be awarded against the unsuccessful party.
Damage caused by rocks on the road
If your car has been damaged by rocks flung up from another vehicle, you can't claim against the other driver because they are not responsible for the rock being there or for the condition of the road.
Any action relating to damage caused to a vehicle by the condition of a road would need to be directed against the relevant local council or authority (eg Main Roads). However, the council or local authority will not be liable for repairing the damage to your car unless you can prove that the council or other authority had actual knowledge of the particular risk that caused the damage.
Damage caused by transport vehicles
If the damage to your vehicle was caused by an object falling off the back of a truck carrying a load of goods that weren’t properly secured, you can send a letter of demand to the driver who was transporting the goods. If the other driver fails to respond to the letter of demand, further action can then be taken against them through either the appropriate court or tribunal in Queensland.
Whether you claim against the other driver through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) or the appropriate Magistrates Court will depend on the amount of your claim. Claims can be made in QCAT for amounts up to $25,000 or less and in the Magistrates Court for amounts up to $150,000 or less.
Alternatively, if you have comprehensively insurance at the time of the incident, you could have the matter dealt with by your insurer after you make a claim.
With our multi-policy discounts, you could save a bundle.
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Please note that the information contained in this material is in relation to the road rules and requirements for car accidents in Queensland only and is not intended for use in relation to car accidents in other Australian states.