Damage control: What to do after a crash

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You’ve crashed the car. Apart from wishing you could wind back time, what can you do?

Knowing what information to exchange with the other driver and when to involve the police can help you keep a cool head and get you the right information to fast-track your insurance claim.

The first thing to do is check that nobody is injured. Then assess the damage.

The chances are that you will need to get your car repaired and that means dealing with crash repairers and your insurance company.

Put your insurance to work

So how do you get your car repaired after a crash?

“This will largely depend on the insurance policy held and the insurance company procedures,” says Sue Scanlan, Deputy Executive Director of the Motor Trades Association of Australia (MTAA).

This is why it’s a good idea – before you set foot in your car again – to read your insurance policy or call your insurer to find out what you need to do if you ever have a crash.

Of course none of this is relevant if you don’t have insurance.

It’s compulsory to have compulsory third party (CTP or green slip) insurance, but this only covers other people who are injured. CTP insurance doesn’t cover you or any property, so it’s best to get some more insurance coverage – and you should factor this into your budget when you’re looking at buying a car.

Generally, you should call your insurance company immediately after a crash.

Most insurers have a 24 hour hotline and they can help you organise a tow truck if your car isn’t drivable and recommend a local repairer.

Essential info

Later, you can lodge your insurance claim over the phone but first you will need to obtain some important information.

If you have a collision with another vehicle make sure you write down the following details:

  • The other driver’s name, address and driver licence number
  • The registration, make and model of the car, plus the name and address of the car’s owner if it’s not the driver
  • Record if any damage to property and get the name and address of the owner
  • The time, date and location of the crash
  • Call the police and ambulance if required. Remember you must report a crash to the police if anyone is injured or if a car is towed away
  • Make sure you collect the names and details of any witnesses and police officers.

The fix

Next you’ll need to take your car to a crash repairer.

Most insurers, such as NRMA Insurance, offer a repair service, which means you take your car to an assessment centre and everything is done for you to make it easier.

If your policy allows you to choose your own repairer, you’ll have to organise quotes and you may still need to use one of your insurance company’s recommended repairers. Always ask your insurer before putting your car in for repairs.

Steps to getting your car repaired after a crash

  1. Find a local, licensed repairer. (In NSW, repairers must be licensed to work on your car.) Ask your insurer to recommend crash repairers in the area, or look in the Yellow Pages and on the internet
  2. If possible, call the repairer before your arrival and explain the problem
  3. Take the car to the repairer. If the car is not drivable, call a tow truck, or ask your insurer to arrange towing
  4. Ask for an estimate of the cost (including parts and labour) to avoid a nasty surprise after the work is done
  5. If it seems expensive, go to another repairer and compare prices
  6. When you choose a repairer you trust, ask how long the repairs will take and when your car will be ready to be collected
  7. When picking up your car, if the cost exceeds the estimate, the repairer should be able to explain the increase
  8. If you have any problems with the quality of work or the cost, contact the Motor Vehicle Repair Industry Authority (MVRIA).

Be prepared

NRMA Insurance’s head of retail sales and services, Gary Dransfield, says it is important to know what to do if you’re involved in a collision – this knowledge could save you a lot of stress.

“Knowing what information to exchange with the other driver and when to involve the police can help you keep a cool head and get you the right information to fast-track your insurance claim,” said Mr Dransfield.

If you haven’t already got it you should seriously think about comprehensive insurance, so that you are covered for the cost of damage to all cars and other property and any personal injury claims.

If that’s too pricey, third party property insurance is another good option which still covers you for damage to other vehicles and property.

Above all, don’t panic – it’s only a car and it can always be fixed or replaced.

A word of warning

Most insurance policies won’t cover you if you have been drinking or if you were driving a vehicle that you are not licensed to drive (like Dad’s V8 turbo).

Injured in an accident?

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident in NSW, you may be able to make a claim for compensation relating to the injury under the Compulsory Third Party (CTP) scheme. For more information visit the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) website or contact the their Claims Advisory Service on 1300 656 919.

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