What to do after a car accident

Accident

I’ve had a car accident … now what? Here's a step-by-step car insurance and accident guide

Have you been involved in an accident and not been sure what to do? This guide provides a list of steps to follow if you’re ever in a motor vehicle accident, from securing the scene to making a claim with your car insurance provider.

Steps to take after being involved in a car accident

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Secure the area

  • Do you or anyone else require medical assistance? If anyone is injured, call 000 immediately for an ambulance.
    • Apply first aid if you know how and make the person comfortable
    • If spinal or head injuries are suspected, don’t move them under any circumstances and wait for the ambulance to arrive
  • Is the surrounding area safe? Make the area safe to prevent another accident from occurring. Secondary accidents account for many of the accidents that occur on Australian roads.
  • Is the car safe? Make sure that there are no hazards such as leaking fuel or debris lying on the road.
  • Is the car still running? Make sure engines are switched off.
  • Can you move the vehicles? If it’s safe to do so, you should move the vehicles involved in the accident to the side of the road and put on your hazard lights.
  • Have you called the police? Call the police if someone has been injured or if there is third-party property damage where the owner is not present. The police should also be notified if there is any suspicion of drugs or alcohol being involved in the accident.

Collect information

The next step is to exchange details with other drivers involved in the accident. Details you should exchange include:

  • Full name
  • Residential address
  • Mobile phone number
  • Driver's licence number
  • Registration number
  • Insurance details (including name of insurer and policy number)

Ideally, you’ll have a notepad and pen in your glovebox for this purpose. You could also take notes on your phone. Some insurers also now have mobile apps to help with the accident-recording process.

If you have your mobile phone, take photos of the accident scene. As well as the scene itself, these pictures should include the damage to your car, damage to other vehicles and any third-party property damage.

Call your insurer

If possible, call your insurance company from the accident scene. They will be able to talk you through the process and advise you of your next steps. You will usually be advised to not admit liability to anyone.

This is because you may be in a state of shock or may not be fully aware of the circumstances of the accident. It is not up to you or anyone else at the scene to determine fault, which should be left to the police and insurance companies to decide at a later date.

Even if no one is hurt or the damage is only minor, you should still report an accident to your insurer. This is in case the other party involved decides to make a claim against you, or you develop an injury or discover further damage to your vehicle at a later date.

Claims contact numbers for some Australian car insurance companies

BrandContact number
1300 Car Insurance claims contact number1300 467 872
1cover Car Insurance claims contact number1300 885 996
1st for Women Car Insurance claims contact number1300 362 721
AAMI Car Insurance claims contact number13 22 44
Toyota Car Insurance claims contact number137 200
Allianz Car Insurance claims contact number13 10 13
Apia Car Insurance claims contact number13 50 50
Australian Post Car Insurance claims contact number1300 885 996
Australian Unity Car Insurance claims contact number1300 734 729
Best Buy Car Insurance claims contact number1300 304 341
BingleCar Insurance claims contact number1300 735 640
Budget Direct Car Insurance claims contact number1300 139 591
Bupa Car Insurance claims contact number132 480
Calliden Car Insurance claims contact number03 9006 1280
Catholic Church Car Insurance claims contact number1300 655 001
Cgu Car Insurance claims contact number13 24 80
Cil Car Insurance claims contact number1800 112 481
Coles Car Insurance claims contact number1300 265 374
Comminsure Car Insurance claims contact number13 2423
Cota Car Insurance claims contact number1300 651 77
Dodo Car Insurance claims contact number1300 855 996
Elders Car Insurance claims contact number1300 554 184
GE Money Car Insurance claims contact number1300 885 996
GIO Car Insurance claims contact number13 14 46
Guild Car Insurance claims contact number1300 988 988
Ibuyeco Car Insurance claims contact number1300 558 225
Just Car Insurance claims contact number13 13 26
MHIA Car Insurance claims contact number1800 676 700 (After hours 1800 620 601)
Mitsui Sumitomo Car Insurance claims contact number1800 105 381
NRMACar Insurance claims contact number131 123
Ozicare Car Insurance claims contact number1300 360 066
Qbe Car Insurance claims contact number1800 068 985
Raa Car Insurance claims contact number(08) 8202 4575
Rac Car Insurance claims contact number13 17 03
Racq Car Insurance claims contact number13 7202
Ract Car Insurance claims contact number13 27 22
Racv Car Insurance claims contact number13 19 03
Real Car Insurance claims contact number13 19 48
Resilium Car Insurance claims contact number131 437
Retirease Car Insurance claims contact number1300 304 345
Sgic Car Insurance claims contact number133 233
Shannons Car Insurance claims contact number13 46 46
Suncorp Car Insurance claims contact number13 25 24
Swann Car Insurance claims contact number1300 657 318
TIOCar Insurance claims contact number131 TIO
Tokio Marine and Nichido Car Insurance claims contact number1800 229 272
Vero Car Insurance claims contact number1300 888 073
Virgin Car Insurance claims contact number1800 662 884
Westpac Car Insurance claims contact number1800 502 077
Wfi Car Insurance claims contact number1300 934 934
Woolworths Car Insurance claims contact number1300 10 1234
Youi Car Insurance claims contact number1300 253 403
Zurich Car Insurance claims contact number1800 019 774

Take care of your vehicle

If your vehicle is damaged, you will need to determine whether it is roadworthy before driving it away from the scene of the accident. Damage may be obvious in the form of a flat tyre or punctured radiator, but other damage may be harder to determine, such as steering or brake problems. Check your vehicle over thoroughly before driving it. If there is any doubt about its roadworthiness, do not drive it away from the scene.

If your vehicle is not driveable, tow trucks attending the accident may try to convince you to let them take your vehicle to a panel shop they are affiliated with. Do not let yourself be talked into anything you don’t understand or trust.  Under no circumstances should you sign a contract, as it may be committing you to having your vehicle repaired at a particular panel shop.

Ask your insurer what you should do. You will generally be directed to an approved panel shop, which the tow truck should take your vehicle to.

Police Assistance Line

If your vehicle requires towing from an accident where the police were not called to attend, you must report the accident to the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 after leaving the crash site.

Making a claim

The final step after an accident is to make a claim with your insurance company. If your vehicle was towed to a panel beater approved by your insurer, repairs will usually be authorised fairly quickly.

On the other hand, if your vehicle is driveable after the accident and only needs minor repairs, your insurer may require you to obtain at least two quotes (sometimes three) from different panel shops, from which they will choose the lowest quote.

Whether you choose to make a claim at all will depend on the cost of repairs compared to any excess you must pay (the amount you must contribute to a claim) and the effect a claim would have on your no-claim bonus. Many people choose not to make a claim on repairs under $1,000 for these reasons.

Post-accident recap

The main things to ensure after an accident include making sure:Police

  • The area is secure and everyone is safe
  • Those who are injured are attended to and an ambulance is called
  • The police are called if necessary
  • Your insurer is contacted as soon as possible
  • Everyone involved exchanges information

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Picture: Walter, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)
Picture: Highway Patrol Images, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped)

Richard Laycock

Richard is the insurance editor at finder.com.au. He is on a mission to make insurance easier to understand.

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