Road accidents are shocking, disorienting experiences, made worse if it results in you suffering an injury. Thousands upon thousands of car accidents occur in Australia each year, which is one of the reasons all drivers, as part of their vehicle registration, must have compulsory third party (CTP) insurance before taking to the road.
The important things to remember amidst the stress and trauma of a road accident, however, are the steps you need to take after it has occurred.
What to do immediately after an accident
If you or others are injured in the motor vehicle accident, immediate medical attention should obviously be sought by calling 000 for an ambulance. You should also endeavour to prevent further accidents by doing such things as activating your hazard lights, turning off engines and moving anyone injured to safe places off the roadside.
You do not need to report the accident to the police but if anyone is injured and the accident has caused damage to the vehicles substantial enough to deploy the air bags, you should call for the police to attend the scene.
In any event, you will later need the number of the traffic incident report from the police in order to lodge a claim for damages for compensation against the insurer of the responsible vehicle.
Obtain the name and address of the owner and driver of the vehicle that hit you, and the registration number of that vehicle. Where possible, take photographs at the accident scene and the damage to each vehicle, including any skid marks on the roadway. If you can, take note of location, weather conditions, traffic conditions and state of the road – all these details can assist your later compensation claim.
Importantly, avoid expressing an opinion to those involved either way about who was at fault in the accident. In other words, restrain your emotions and avoid an angry reaction to the incident. Let the police and, should you engage one, your lawyer, investigate and prove the negligence of the other party.
Next steps after the accident
The following are the things you need to concentrate on following the accident in order to make a successful insurance claim if you’ve been injured:
- When possible, report the accident to your insurer, even if you don’t plan to make a claim. Do this because the other driver may make a claim against you, and, secondly, because most insurance policies place a duty on you to disclose any accidents and a breach of that duty could invalidate your insurance.
- See a doctor as soon as possible after the accident to have all your injuries assessed and obtain a medical certificate, which will need to be included with your claim form on the CTP Insurer of the vehicle which caused your injury.
- If police did not attend the scene of the accident, visit your local police station, report the incident, and make sure to obtain the traffic incident number for insertion on the claim form if you intend to make a claim for damages.
Beware of time limits
Strict time limits apply to personal injury compensation claims under CTP insurance, which you need to be aware of. Consulting a legal professional experienced in motor vehicle injury claims can greatly help when it comes to meeting time limits and expediting the whole process.
For example, you must serve a notice of claim form on the CTP Insurer of the vehicle driven by the negligent driver within one month of instructing a lawyer or within nine months of the date of accident. Outside of this period, only a reasonable excuse will be accepted in order to make a claim.
What happens next?
Each incident is different but depending on the circumstances of the accident occurred, the CTP insurer you claim against may immediately send a letter offering to pay for your medical and rehabilitation expenses. If the details of the accident are less clear, such an offer may not be forthcoming until the CTP insurer has had time to conduct its own investigation of the accident. The CTP insurer has six months to determine whether liability will be admitted or not.
Again, an experienced injury lawyer is especially valuable when it comes to negotiations with the CTP insurer. Your lawyer can promptly investigate the accident and speak to witnesses or passengers to obtain liability statements and potentially counter any claims by the CTP insurer regarding who was at fault.
What can you claim for?
The total damages you may be entitled to as a result of injury in a car accident will vary depending on answers to a number of questions, including:
- Are your injuries permanent or will you recover?
- Can you return to work?
- What medical treatment, plus ongoing care and rehabilitation, do you need now and in the future, and how much will it cost?
In summary, there’s quite a lot to do in order to successfully claim compensation for an injury sustained in a motor vehicle accident and while it may be within your capability, it can also be time-consuming and lengthy. This is why it’s highly advisable to consult a legal professional experienced in this area of law, who can help make the whole process much smoother and quicker.
It is important to seek specific advice regarding your circumstances as this fact sheet provides general information only and does not constitute legal advice.