Hit a pole? Your car insurance policy might cover that.
We've all done it before; accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake and ran into a pole that you swear wasn't there before. The good news is that if you've got comprehensive cover you'll probably be covered for any damages.
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Which policies cover this type of damage?
Generally, the only kind of policy that will pay out for this kind of accident is comprehensive car insurance.
The only circumstances where cheaper third-party fire and theft car insurance will generally cover you are if:
- a thief stole your car and then drove it into a tree, a pole or other solid object; or
- an uninsured driver, without third-party insurance of their own, was responsible for you running into the pole.
If you have comprehensive car insurance then it should cover the cost of repairs to your car, in line with the policy terms.
For example, your policy will probably cover the cost if you accidentally skidded on a wet road, despite driving prudently; or if you had to swerve to avoid a kangaroo.
However, you probably won’t be able to make a claim if you hit the pole because you were driving whilst drunk, or even if you were driving sober but refused to take a drug or alcohol test at the scene of the accident.
Would I have to pay for damage to the pole?
It depends on who the pole belongs to and the exact circumstances of the crash, but typically yes, you will have to pay for the damage.
Fortunately, your car insurance should cover the cost, thanks to “third-party liability insurance”, which is included with all the main types of car insurance.
In this case, the “third party” refers to whoever owns the pole, and “liability” refers to your obligation to pay for the damage.
What should I do after an accident?
If you’ve been involved in an accident you should take the following steps:
- Assess the situation. If it’s serious, for example if someone is injured, or you hit an electricity pole and caused a blackout, then you should call emergency services.
- Gather information: Record any information that will be required. If reasonable to do so, write down the details of the accident while it’s fresh in your mind and take photos, or have someone take them for you.
- Decide who to call: Call emergency services first if necessary. You should also call your insurer as soon as reasonably possible. The insurer can usually arrange a tow truck, approve the cost of towing if needed, and may also be able to approve necessary repairs quickly.
- Wait at the scene: Unless it is unsafe, you shouldn’t leave the scene until towing has been arranged. If your car is damaged you shouldn’t attempt to drive it away. Doing so might cause further damage and jeopardise your claim.
Will I be fined?
Generally not; car accidents themselves are not a fineable offence. However, the driving that causes them might be. If you do get fined after running into a pole or a tree it’s probably for the traffic infringement that led to the accident, rather than the accident itself. Fines are not covered by car insurance.
You won’t be “fined” for damage to the pole, tree or other property either, but you might be held liable for the cost of repair. This will generally be covered by third-party property car insurance.
Am I covered if I hit road debris?
Yes. Hitting road debris can be covered in the same way as hitting a pole.
The main difference is that if you hit road debris, it’s probably less likely to be your fault than hitting a tree. It’s possible that whoever was responsible for it being on the road might be held liable, in which case their third-party car insurance may pay for the damage to your vehicle.
However, this can only happen if the person responsible can be identified. If not, you might have to make an “at fault” claim, as you would if you drove into a tree.