Motor Vehicle Accidents

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1 Motor Vehicle Accidents Crash!!! Oh no, now what? It is often hard to know what to do if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident. What rights and responsibilities do you have? And what actions, if any, should you take? Don't panic! Just take a few minutes to read through this pamphlet. In the following pages we have tried to answer all of your questions and give you some idea of what you need to do. At the Scene of the Accident Drivers involved in an accident always need to exchange names. addresses, telephone numbers and vehicle registration numbers. You should also ask whether the other vehicle is insured, and if so, with which company. If there are any witnesses, it is essential that you also write down their names, addresses and telephone numbers. You only need to report the accident to the police id someone has been injured, if the other driver has left without exchanging their details with you, or if damage is done to property belonging to a person who is not at the scene of the accident. Never admit that the accident was your fault. You may not know what actually caused the accident at this time. Write down the exact details of the accident as soon as possible.

2 The First Step Regardless of whether or not either driver is insured, or whose fault it was, getting a quote is the first step that you need to take. A quote is a written statement, made by a mechanic or panel beater, of the damage done and the amount that it will cost for your vehicle to be fixed. A quote should be obtained as soon as possible after the accident. Take your damaged vehicle to a mechanic or panel beater, who will inspect it and write out a quote. Getting a quote should not cost you anything. You only have to get one quote. But you also have to show that this quote is reasonable and fair. The best way to do this is to get two independent quotes. The lesser of the two amounts is the one you can claim. YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE YOUR VEHICLE REPAIRED AT THIS STAGE Do I Have to Repair my Vehicle? You are under no obligation to repair your vehicle. If the accident was not your Fault, you may be entitled to the cost of the repairs, but once you get the money it is up to you how it is spent. Can I Come to an Agreement with the Other Party? If no insurance companies are involved you are free to negotiate a settlement with the other party on any terms that you both agree upon. If you believe that the other driver is at fault and you do not wish to claim on your own insurance, or if you have none, then write a letter to the other driver demanding payment for the damage to your vehicle. Include your quotes and ask for a proposal, within ten days, for the payment of your claim. You should also offer an inspection of your vehicle and suggest a reasonable instalment plan should the other driver have financial difficulties. But also let the other driver know that if you have not reached an agreement within ten days, you will be forced to consider issuing legal proceedings against him or her. If the accident was your fault and you have received a letter demanding payment, respond immediately by telling the other driver whether you are insured and whether you can afford to pay for the repairs to his or her vehicle. You should also arrange to inspect the other driver's vehicle, to ensure that the quote actually reflects the damage done to the vehicle. If you cannot pay in one lump sum, then you can suggest a plan to pa, weekly or monthly instalments. You should also disclose your income and list you, living expenses and your

3 assets to show the other driver that you are not in a position to offer a higher amount. If you are not insured and cannot pay the cost of repairs at all, you must show the other driver why, by disclosing your income and listing your living expenses and assets. Should I See a Solicitor? You only have to see a solicitor if: you cannot reach an agreement about who caused the accident or about the cost of the repairs the other driver is at fault and refuses to pay for damage to your vehicle the other driver is at fault and refuses to claim on his or her insurance the other driver believes the accident was your fault and threatens to sue you One option that your solicitor may suggest is that you sue the other driver. Suing The Other Driver Going to Court can be an expensive exercise without any guarantee of success. If you are successful, you may be reimbursed for most of your cost. However, if you are unsuccessful, in addition to paying your own costs, you will have to pay the other driver's claim, as well as legal costs, as assessed by the Court. It is also possible that the costs of calling witnesses to give evidence would be added to this. The smaller your claim, the less value there is in suing. When legal costs are taken into account, they may outweigh the amount that you seek to recover. If your claim is less than $500, you may not be able to get any of your legal costs reimbursed to you. Therefore it is very important that you carefully consider your options before deciding to sue the other driver. What if Have Insurance? No matter who caused the accident or whether or not you want to make an insurance claim, you should still inform your insurance company of the accident as soon as possible.

4 Ask them to send you a claim Form -fill this in and return it, even if you are not going to make a claim If you DO want to make a claim: The insurance company will then take over the matter on your behalf when they get your claim form. You will usually have to pay the excess at this stage If you DO NOT want to claim: Mark the top of each page of the claim form with REPORT ONLY. Then your insurer will simply file it away - there will be no increase in premiums or change to your rating If you change your mind and want to make a claim later, you can still do so, and your insurer will still have all your details Also, if the other party contacts your insurance company, they will have your version of the accident on file and they can decide whether or not to pay for the damages Insurance Made Easy There are different types of insurance and you should check which sort of insurance you have and what type of insurance the other vehicle may have. Compulsory Third Party Insurance This insurance is paid each year with your registration. It pays for any injuries which arise out of an accident involving all registered vehicles, trains and trams. If you have been injured as a result of the accident, the first thing to do is to consult a solicitor to have your rights to compensation explained to you. You should then, within 28 days of the accident, complete and lodge a claim form with the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), 222 Exhibition Street, Melbourne, telephone Claim forms are available from the TAC, as well as most public hospitals, Vic Roads offices police stations and some doctors. Regardless of who caused the accident, you may be entitled to hospital and medical expenses, up to 80% of your pre-accident weekly earnings id you are unable to work, and impairment benefits determined by the TAC you have suffered any permanent physical injury. If you have been injured as a result of another driver's negligence you also may be entitled to sue for damages. But the details of your entitlement to compensation are complex. It is for this reason that we suggest you seek the help and advice of a solicitor.

5 Third Party Property (or Third Party Fire and Theft Insurance) This insurance does not pay for any damage done to your own vehicle but covers damage done to other peoples 'vehicles and property as a result of an accident that is your fault. You can obtain extended cover which will also insure your own vehicle against fire and theft. Comprehensive Insurance This insurance covers damage done to your property that may have been damaged in the accident. If you have comprehensive insurance and the accident was not your fault, then you are not responsible for the damage caused. All you have to do is fill in a claim form and describe the details of the accident. Also give the name and address of the person who caused the accident. Once the claim is processed, the insurance company will pay for you to have the vehicle fixed. Most insurance companies will not charge you excess or increase your insurance premiums y the accident was not your fault, and you can provide the name of the person who caused the accident. But you should always check this before making a claim. If you have comprehensive insurance and the accident was your fault, then your insurance company will pay for damage to your vehicle and any other vehicles or property damaged, if you make a claim. However, most insurance companies will charge you excess and your insurance premiums will increase (usually for two years). Should I Claim on my Insurance? If you have insurance and you want to make a claim, then you should fad out how much excess you will have to pay, whether or not your premium will increase, and if so, by how much. Insurance companies usually charge their customers excess, which means that if you are asking them to pay for damage, you have to pay, say, the first $300 of the cost to repair the damage. For example, if the damage bill is $400, you would pay $300 and the insurance company would pay the other $100. Insurance companies also charge drivers an insurance premium according to how many years they have had insurance and how many insurance claims they have made. Each time you make a claim your "rating " may go down and you may pay a higher premium.

6 When deciding whether or not to claim, the most important thing to consider is whether the cost of repairs to the other vehicle is more or less than any excess that you may have to pay or any increase in your insurance premiums. For example, if you have a $300 excess and your premium will increase by $200 if you make a claim, then it will cost you $500 to make the claim. In some cases it will cost you more to make a claim than to pay for the repairs. In these cases it is not worthwhile claiming on your insurance. Don't forget, though, that if you do not claim on your insurance and try to handle the matter yourself, your insurance company may not allow you to claim at a later date. What am I Entitled to Claim? Whether you are insured or not, you are only entitled to tee restored to the financial position that you were in prior to the accident. You are entitled to claim the cost of returning your vehicle to its pre-accident condition. If your vehicle was already damaged you are not entitled to have this damage repaired. You are also entitled to claim other expenses incurred as a direct result of the accident. Expenses such as towing, storage or damage to personal items in the vehicle may be covered under some insurance policies. If your vehicle has been "written off", this means that the damage would cost more to repair than the vehicle is worth. In this case, you are entitled to claim the difference between the pre-accident value of your vehicle and the salvage value of the wreck. The person who regularly services your vehicle or a professional assessor can estimate the pre-accident value of your vehicle. You should not repair or dispose of your vehicle before the other driver has had a chance to inspect the damage. If your vehicle has already been repaired you are still entitled to the cost of repairs, so long as they are reasonable. If you have disposed of the vehicle, you are entitled to the difference between the preaccident value and the sale or 'trade-in 'price. But always remember, it is your responsibility to do everything that you can to minimise the cost to the other driver. You cannot build up unnecessary expenses and expect the other driver to pay for them.

7 The information provided in this pamphlet is a general guide only. To be sure of your rights and responsibilities, you should get advice from a solicitor or a community legal service.

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