Making A Car Insurance Claim When You're Not At Fault

28 May 2018

Co-Author: James Hurwood 

Picture the scene: you’re waiting in your car at a red light, listening to the radio, and bang. Your car is hit from behind by another driver. Thankfully it is at low speed, but it still leaves a nasty dent in your car’s bumper. You’re sure the accident wasn’t your fault, so making a car insurance claim to cover the costs of repairing the dent should be pretty straightforward, right?

In this article, we’ve outlined the steps you should think about taking when making a car insurance claim when you’re not at fault – all the way from the scene of the incident to potentially receiving your payment.

Who’s at fault?

Your initial reaction to being involved in a car accident may be panic, and to assume you’ve done something wrong – however that may not be the case so be careful not to assume blame until you’ve spoken with your insurer. While some car accidents can be the fault of multiple parties, there are a handful of situations in which it can be relatively simple to determine which single party is at fault.

  • Ignoring a red light or stop sign – if the accident occurs as a result of one driver running a red light, stop sign, or some other similar form of road signage, it’s most likely the driver who ignored the sign(s) will be at fault
  • Being rear-ended/rear-ending another car – in the case that one car rear-ends another, it’s most likely that the driver who did the rear-ending will be at fault
  • Intoxication – if a driver involved in an accident is found to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they will most likely subsequently be considered at fault

However, not every car accident is clear cut, and sometimes the question of who is at fault can’t be answered immediately. Even if you’re certain you’re not at fault there’s a number of things you can do which may support your case when a claim is lodged with your insurer or the other party’s insurer.

1. Record everything at the accident scene

It’s reasonably common for a car insurance policy’s product disclosure statements (PDS) to mention that having evidence, written notes, or witness statements from the scene of the accident may help the insurer process your claim. These steps can help give an insurer a more thorough picture of the events that occurred, and subsequently may allow them to reach a decision faster. Some of the forms of evidence you may be able to collect include:

  • Photos of the scene, including the damage done to the vehicle(s)
  • The licence details of the other driver(s) involved
  • Written or recorded statements from the driver(s) involved and any bystanders who witnessed the accident (you can also ask any witnesses for their contact details)
  • If your car has a dash cam that recorded the accident, that could be useful footage to submit to an insurer

The more concrete the evidence you can gather, the better. If you don’t have any evidence to support your claim, it could boil down to your word versus the other driver’s.

2. Get the other driver’s details

After ensuring everyone’s safe and there’s no immediate risk to any of the involved parties, think about exchanging details with the other driver(s) involved. Not only can you ask for their name, address, and phone number, you can also request the name of their insurer and their policy information, along with their car registration number and model.

If they refuse to give you their details, RACQ advises you can report the accident to the police regardless of how much or how little damage has been done to your vehicle.

When it comes to liability, it is best to leave it to the experts and let the police or insurance provider decide once they’ve gathered all relevant details. That said, it may benefit you to avoid saying anything which directly or indirectly suggests fault on your part.

3. Figure out whether it’s worth claiming or not

In certain situations, the cost of making a car insurance claim may outweigh the amount it would cost to just get your car repaired yourself. Depending on how high your excess is and how much damage has been done to your car, you may decide that it will be cheaper (and potentially faster) to pay for the repairs yourself.

This could both save you money (depending on how much the cost of repairs will be versus your excess) and time, as it would let you avoid the claims process entirely.

4. If you’ve decided you want to claim, contact your insurer as soon as you can

In the event that you do decide to lodge a claim with your insurer, it’s generally a good idea to contact them sooner rather than later. A stipulation you’ll almost always find on a car insurance PDS is that you should contact your insurer ASAP after the accident. Not doing so could impact your claim.

Additionally, if you sustain any further loss or damage between the crash and the point at which you notify your insurer, this could complicate the claim further.

Will making a claim increase my premium or put my no-claim bonus at risk?

It will depend on whether you’re at fault or not – a no-claim bonus is generally only affected by claims arising from accidents in which you were at fault. Although that being said, every insurer has different rules and methodologies for how they calculate no-claim bonuses, meaning that a claim arising from an incident in which you were not at fault may still affect your no-claim bonus. Additionally, it’s worth noting that even if your no-claim bonus remains intact, your premium could still increase when your policy renewal date comes around due to several other factors including your age, the age of your vehicle, where you live etc.

A key thing to consider here is what you may be risking if you choose not to contact your insurer. Not contacting your insurer ASAP after being involved in an accident can be risky, as it may lead to you receiving reduced compensation, or even your claim being rejected.

If you ARE at fault, what changes?

The process we’ve outlined above may not change significantly if you’re at fault. Regardless of whether you’re at fault or not, what’s important is that you’ve got the right car insurance policy for your needs. You can compare car insurance policies with Canstar to find the best value policy for you and your vehicle.

If you’re considering car insurance policies, the comparison table below displays some of the policies currently available on Canstar’s database for a 30-39 year old male seeking cover in NSW without cover for an extra driver under 25. Please note the table is sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest) followed by provider name (alphabetical) and features links direct to the providers’ website. Use Canstar’s car insurance comparison selector to view a wider range of policies.

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