The first reaction is confusion. Surely that long gash was not there when you parked the car last night. Why is the tail light smashed?
The second response is likely unprintable. By the third or fourth turn, you may be wondering whether your rates are going to go up over a hit-and-run accident with which you had absolutely no control over.
Your rates may go up if you cannot find the other driver, so quick action is important.
The legal understanding of hit-and-run accidents includes any motor vehicle accident where one driver leaves the scene without exchanging details or checking to see if everyone else involved is all right. They include tragic pedestrian and cyclist accidents and the more common situation when someone hits a parked car and vanishes without a note.
Either way, the victim is stuck with the problem.
The insurance situation
If you find your car has been sideswiped, you may be covered if you have comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive insurance covers damage to your car from a wide range of sources, including damage from other drivers and car accidents.
Even with comprehensive coverage, it is important to gather information, to the extent that it can be gathered, about who caused the damage, their registration and their address. This may not be possible if that person drove away after hitting your car.
If you cannot track down the driver who was at fault, then your options may be to pay for the repairs yourself or make a claim on your comprehensive car insurance and pay any applicable excess. This option could also result in your premiums being increased.
If with the help of the police you are able to track down the guilty driver, then your chances are better for recovering the cost of repairs from the other driver.
If you do not have comprehensive insurance, finding the other driver is even more important.
What should I do in the aftermath of an accident?
You should try to determine the extent of the damage, and document the incident as soon as possible by doing the following:
- Make a note in writing of the time at which you discovered the damage;
- Record any other details that may be relevant, such as whether you heard a loud crash in the night and what time it may have been;
- Take photos of the damage to clearly capture the extent of damage.
Make sure the damage is well documented before you drive the car and, if it handles strangely, or it seems there may be more than just a cosmetic problem, park it somewhere safe as soon as reasonably possible. Driving your car could increase any damage caused by the initial accident. Any subsequent damage from driving the car won’t be covered by insurance and may invalidate your claim.
If the other driver remains briefly on the scene but refuses to provide details after an accident, take note of their license plate if possible and call the police.
What if you are injured?
Let’s suppose that it is not a simple sideswiped parked car. What if you are hurt?
If you are injured in a hit-and-run accident, and the at-fault driver cannot be identified, you can then lodge a claim against the Nominal Defendant and receive compensation.
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. The claims process is similar to that you would follow against a compulsory third-party insurer.
If you commit a hit-and-run
This is an entirely different situation. If you are to blame, you will not be able to claim from your car insurance. Situations can be complicated, we understand. Most importantly, by driving away from the accident, you may be committing a crime. You should seek legal representation immediately. Your insurance coverage is the least of your problems.
If you have questions about insurance, insurance liability or any other issue arising from a hit-and-run accident, the attorneys at Owen Hodge Lawyers would be glad to help. Please call us at 1800 770 780 to schedule a consultation.