Do I have to report an accident?
You have to report an accident to the police if anyone was injured or if the property damage is likely to cost more than $2500 to repair. Most insurance policies require you to report the accident to your insurer as soon as possible. It is a good idea to report any accident that you have even if you do not intend to make a claim because the other driver may claim against you.
What happens if I receive a letter of demand for damage to somebody's car?
If you are insured you can pass the letter of demand to your insurer. Most insurance policies have an excess which means you have to pay the amount of the excess before the insurance company will accept the claim.
If you are not insured and you receive a letter of demand this means that the other driver or their insurer is holding you responsible for the accident and is wanting compensation.
You need to think about whether you are fully or partially responsible for the accident. This is called liability. Liability can be shared between both drivers if they are both at fault. You should get legal advice about your liability.
You can ask for evidence of the amount of damage being claimed against you eg quotes or valuations. This is called quantum.
When you have the information you should negotiate with the insurer or the other driver. You should get legal advice before you start negotiating.
If you also have damage to your own car from the accident and the other driver is partially to blame, you may have a counter claim, ie you claim against the other driver for the damage to your car when they claim against you. You should get legal advice about your liability if you think this applies to you.
If you cannot reach an agreement you may go to court. If it is valued at less than $25,000 it may go to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). You should get legal advice about going to court.
What happens if I want to make a claim for damage to my car?
If the car is able to be repaired you should obtain two written quotes from qualified repairers for both labour and parts or, if the car cannot be repaired, obtain two written valuations from car yards, qualified panel beaters or other expert valuers (eg car clubs) of its pre accident value.
Next calculate the amount to claim for the car, either:
- lowest quote for repairs + any other necessary costs such as towing
- lowest valuation for the pre accident value + any other necessary costs such as towing + storage less salvage value ie value of the wreck.
Send a letter of demand enclosing copies of quotes/valuations to the owner and driver of the other vehicle and to their insurer asking for payment within a fixed time period eg 14 days. If the owner and the driver are not the same person, a separate letter should be sent to each person.
If the other party doesn't pay the amount owing within the time specified in the letter of demand or neither they or their insurer respond at all then you can take action in the Civil Courts or where the amount is $25,000 or less in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
The Financial Ombudsman Service may be able to assist you if you have a dispute with another person's insurance company in relation to motor vehicle property damage. You should get legal advice before lodging a dispute with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) .
How do I find out the owner's name if I don't know it?
If you do not know the name of the owner, but you have the registration number, you can find out the name by conducting a search of the Queensland Motor Vehicle Register at your nearest
Department of Transport and Main Roads Customer Service Centre. You will need to fill out an application and pay a fee.
The information requested must be about the vehicle(s) that were involved in the incident/accident. To support the application you must supply one or more of the following:
- police motor vehicle incident report
- written permission from the registered operator
- official request on letterhead from your insurance company, solicitor or lawyer which supports the vehicle incident/accident report
- statutory declaration: describing the off-road incident and property damage, with a copy of any available witness statements
- statutory declaration: describing the incident, with a repair quote
How much time do I have to claim for motor vehicle property damage?
You have to claim within six years.
Do I need legal advice?
You may need legal advice if
- there is a dispute about liability (who is at fault) or about quantum (the amount of damage)
- you are about to start negotiating with the insurer or other driver
- both your vehicle and the other vehicle are damaged and you believe the other driver is partially to blame
- you are going to court because you can't reach an agreement
- you are having a dispute with an insurer over your motor vehicle property damage claim.
Where can I get legal advice
Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice if you are having a dispute about property damage from a car accident. We do not give legal advice about personal injuries.
Legal Aid Queensland's Consumer Protection Unit (CPU) may provide specialist legal advice and assistance where an insurer is refusing or delaying an insurance claim.
Legal advice may also be available from the following organisations. These services do not provide advice about personal injuries. You should contact a private lawyer if you need advice on personal injuries.
Insurance Law Service provide free specialist legal advice to anyone in Australia on insurance law or about resolving a dispute with an insurer.
RACQ Legal Advisory Service (for members only ) provide all advice in relation to motor vehicles, eg buying and selling vehicles, traffic offences, repair problems, accidents. They may also assist with advice on document completion depending on the complexity.
Rural Women's Outreach Legal Service provides free initial legal advice to rural women on a range of legal matters, including car accidents (recovery of money for repairs to the car).
South West Brisbane Community Legal Service (SWBCLS) gives free legal advice on a range of legal issues, including motor vehicle accidents.
Students Legal Servce - University of Queensland give free legal advice to UQ students only, including advice about motor vehicle accidents.
Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation, including solicitors who help with personal injury claims.
Who else can help?
The following organisations may also be able to help you. They do not provide legal advice.
Nominal defendant is a statutory body established for the purpose of compensating people who are injured as a result of the negligent driving of unidentified and/or uninsured (no CTP insurance) motor vehicles.
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) makes original decisions for a range of matters including minor civil disputes such as motor vehicle property damage.
Queensland Ombudsman investigates complaints about decisions and actions of Queensland's public sector agencies, including motor vehicle registration, licences, and road maintenance.
Financial Ombudsman Service offer dispute resolution over complaints about financial services, including general insurance.
Motor Accident Insurance Commission deal with compulsory third party (CTP) and personal injury claims. Contact the commission if you wish to make a claim.
Office of Fair Trading provide a helpful guide for consumers to getting motor vehicle repairs and resolving disputes.