How to make a car insurance claim when your vehicle is damaged in a hit-and-run accident.
You’re driving home late from work one night when without warning another car runs a red light and T-bones you. While you’re recovering from the shock and checking that you’re unhurt, the driver of the other vehicle hits the accelerator and speeds off into the night. It all happened so quickly and unexpectedly that you hadn’t even thought to check the rego of the other car – and now it’s nowhere to be seen.
You’ve just been the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Not only is this type of scenario a very traumatic experience but it can also make it difficult to claim for the loss or damage to your vehicle.
Let’s take a closer look at how to make a car insurance claim after a hit-and-run.
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What is a hit and run accident?
The first thing many of us think of when we hear the phrase ‘hit-and-run’ are those heartbreaking news stories of pedestrians being hit by a car and then left for dead as a panicked driver flees the scene. But that’s not the only type of hit-and-run.
In more general terms, a hit-and-run accident refers to any motor vehicle accident where one driver leaves the scene without exchanging details or checking to see if everyone else involved is okay. A hit-and-run accident can also refer to when someone hits your parked car and doesn’t leave their details.
These types of accidents occur for a variety of reasons but basically it all comes down to the fact that the fleeing driver fears the legal or financial consequences of the accident they have caused. Maybe they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, maybe they’re uninsured, or maybe they simply don’t think they can afford to pay an insurance excess or cover the cost of repairing your vehicle.
The good news is that if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident, your comprehensive car insurance can help.
Does car insurance cover hit and run accidents?
If your vehicle is the victim of a hit-and-run, car insurance can provide the necessary cover to repair your vehicle – but only if you have a comprehensive policy. Without comprehensive cover, you’ll need to foot the repair bill out of your own pocket.
To help ensure the success of your claim, you’ll need to gather as much evidence as you can. While you may not be able to provide the other driver’s contact details, there are several steps you can take to try to track them down, including:
- Recording a description of the other vehicle and its driver
- Asking witnesses for their names and contact details
- Reporting the matter to the police and obtaining an incident report number
- Checking if any nearby businesses or homes may have captured CCTV footage of the incident
- Taking photos of the accident scene
Doing everything you can to track down the other motorist is crucial. If they have third party property damage cover, which is included in all three types of optional car insurance available in Australia, their insurance can cover the cost of repairing your car. If they’re uninsured, your own car insurance policy may include uninsured motorist damage cover, which covers the cost of repairs when you can provide the name, address and registration details of the uninsured driver.
Will I need to pay an excess?
If you claim on your car insurance for an accident that is entirely someone else’s fault, some insurers will waive your excess – but only if you can identify the at-fault driver. And with hit-and-run accidents, there’s obviously no way for you to hand over the details of the at-fault driver to your insurer, so you’ll typically need to pay an excess before your claim will be processed.
This is a frustrating part of the process and will no doubt seem grossly unfair when you’ve done nothing wrong, but unless you can prove who the other driver was there’s usually no way around it. If you do need to pay an excess, try to console yourself with the fact that the repair bill could have cost you a whole lot more if you didn’t have comprehensive car insurance.
What if I’m injured in a hit and run accident?
Under normal circumstances, if you’re injured in a no-fault accident with another driver you could lodge a claim for compensation against that driver’s compulsory third party (CTP) insurance policy.
If the other driver doesn’t stick around to exchange details but you manage to get their rego number, you can contact the State Insurance Regulatory Authority. It can use this registration number to track down the driver’s name and their CTP insurer, and you can then submit your claim for injuries and damages direct to that insurer.
But where the at-fault driver is unable to be identified, there’s a special scheme available that allows you to lodge a compensation claim for your injuries against the ‘Nominal Defendant’. This government insurance scheme is designed to offer financial protection for people injured in a car accident caused by an unidentified or uninsured driver.
The Nominal Defendant scheme varies in different Australian states and territories. In NSW, a small portion of all money paid to purchase CTP insurance is contributed to the Nominal Defendant Fund by insurers. In situations where the at-fault driver cannot be identified, you can then lodge a claim against the Nominal Defendant and receive the compensation you are entitled to.
However, you will need to make a reasonable effort to identify the at-fault vehicle, such as phoning the police and placing newspaper ads calling for witnesses. There are also limits on how long after an accident you can lodge your claim, so check the terms and conditions of the scheme in your state or territory for more information.
What can I be compensated for in a personal injury claim?
If your claim against the Nominal Defendant is successful, you could receive compensation for:
- Medical and hospital expenses
- Rehabilitation costs
- Loss of income or reduction of your income-earning capacity
- Replacement or repair of any damaged property you own
- Home modification costs required due to your injury
- Home care costs
- If your injury is severe enough you can also claim for general damages (pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life)
What should I do if I’m involved in an accident?
Don’t flee the scene! Instead, make sure everyone involved is safe and call the emergency services if necessary. Make sure your car and the surrounding area is safe and that there is no chance of any further accidents occurring before you start exchanging information with other drivers and gathering the details of witnesses. Our guide to what to do after a car accident runs you through everything you need to remember in greater detail.
But what should you do if you’re involved in an accident and the other driver takes off? The following tips will help you gather the information you may need to file a successful claim:
- Don’t chase after the other driver and attempt to take the law into your own hands
- Try to take note of the vehicle’s registration number
- Record a description of the driver and their vehicle
- Phone the police and get an incident report number
- Collect the names and contact information of any witnesses, as well as any details they can offer about the other driver
- Take photos of the accident scene, including the damage to your vehicle and to any other property
- Contact any businesses or homes near the accident scene that may have CCTV cameras that recorded the incident
- Contact your insurer to notify them what has happened and begin the claims process
What should I do if the other driver refuses to provide their details?
If you’re a driver who’s been involved in an accident, refusing to provide your details is against the law. So if someone refuses to exchange details after an accident, phone the police.
Try to remember to make a note of the registration plate of the car. With this information at your disposal, it should then be easy to track down the driver’s contact and insurance details.