Step 1. I am not insured and not at fault
If you being chased for money and you are not insured, but you believe are not at fault or only partly at fault you will need to work out how to respond to the claim the other party or their insurer has made against you. Do not ignore the demand! You should read the information about responding to a claim after a car accident on the LawAccess NSW website. If you have suffered any damage to your car, you may wish to make a demand to the at fault driver or owner of the other car as part of that response.
What should I do?
Step 1: Gather your own evidence
As soon as possible, while the accident is still fresh in your mind, you should:
- write a statement about what happened
- draw a diagram of where the accident took place.
Your statement should cover:
- who was driving (names and addresses of people, colour, make, model and plates of each vehicle)
- where (name of roads, direction of travel, relevant cross-streets )
- when (date and time)
- what the conditions were like (weather, lighting, road surface and condition and speed limit)
- what happened (before, during and after the incident, what you saw the other driver do and what you did, including:
- speed of travel
- lane of travel
- action you took (e.g. sound your horn, brake, put on your blinkers, swerve – left or right?)
- action the other driver took (what you saw and heard)
- what you did after the accident, for example:
- what did you observe about the scene (e.g. skid marks on the road) and the cars involved after the accident
- what you and any other people involved or witnesses said (their names and contact details if possible)
- did the police attend (what was the name, rank and station of the police officer and date and time reported?).
You should also:
- take photos of any damage to your car and the other car.
- take photos of the scene, for example showing the position of the cars, the condition of the road, or lines of sight.
- take video footage, for example, from a dashcam.
- get CCTV footage as soon as possible (footage is often recorded over after a set timeframe and may be lost)
- get signed statements from any independent witnesses to the accident, for example, people who have no reason to take sides in the dispute.
- read the NSW Road Rules on the Roads and Maritime Service website, and see if they support your argument you are not at fault? Information about the NSW road rules is available from the Roads and Maritime Road Rules page.
To read more about the evidence
you could collect to show who was at fault, including example sketches of car accident diagrams and information about how to get witness contact details see:
You also need to gather evidence about any damage or loss you are claiming was caused by the accident. LawAccess NSW has more information on gathering evidence about damage and losses
Your first step
is to work out how much damage you have suffered by the collision. This means gathering evidence and quotes for repair or, if your car cannot be repaired, its market value.
The damage in a motor vehicle repair claim is usually made up as follows:
- The lesser of:
- the cost of the repair; or
- the market value of the vehicle LESS salvage value
If the car is cheaper to replace than to repair, then you are generally expected to act reasonably and minimise the loss by replacing the car.
- PLUS towing costs
- PLUS hire car costs, lost wages or profits (called “demurrage”)
The party (or the insurer) can only recover what is ‘reasonable’ given the circumstances, such as the:
- age, make and model of the car
- condition of the car
- availability of car repairers in the area.
If you want to chase the other party to recover your losses, you need to mitigate or minimise those losses. You cannot recover compensation for losses which you ought reasonably have avoided following the accident. This means you must keep your costs reasonable.
It is generally advisable to get more than one quote so that you can show that your costs are reasonable.
If you want to claim hire car costs, you need to consider what make/model of car would be reasonably comparable to the one that was damaged. If you are considering using a hire car management company (one that gives you a hire car then chases the other party for the cost) – see our Should I get a courtesy car through a credit hire company? fact sheet
Step 2: Seek further information from the other party if necessary
If you have received a letter of demand but not an itemised statement of damages, it is advisable to ask the other party or their insurer for copies of itemised bills, photos, assessor’s reports etc. See:
Make sure that you state clearly that you deny you are at fault in the accident, and that the request for information is made without any admissions on your part.
Once you have the itemised invoice/quote of damages claimed you should check:
- Did you cause the damage claimed?
- Is the repair method reasonable given the age, make and model of the car?
- Are the repair costs reasonable?
You may want to consider seeking the opinion of a professional (like a smash repairer) as to whether the amount is right. This will be more convincing than your opinion alone.
Step 3: Read the road rules and get advice if necessary
You should read the NSW Road Rules.
Based on the evidence you have gathered, have any road rules been broken? If so, by whom and how? Information about the NSW Road Rules
is available from the Roads and Maritime Service
All drivers and owners have a duty to other road users to take reasonable care.
Generally, any person who is negligent (does not take reasonable care) in the driving, control or maintenance of a vehicle and causes damage as a result is at fault and will be responsible for the damage caused. For example, a driver may be negligent if they:
- drink drive;
- don’t obey a traffic light or sign; or
- don’t keep a proper lookout.
If you and other party (or their insurer) can’t agree about who is fault or there is conflicting evidence and versions of events, fault will be decided by a court. The Court will make a decision about fault based on:
- the availability and credibility of witnesses
- physical evidence, for example photos, videos, damage reports, skid marks on roads
- interpretation of the Road Rules.
It is possible for more than one person to be at fault – each person may have contributed to the accident. So it is possible for fault to be apportioned (divided up) in percentages. For instance, the first driver may be 25% at fault and need to pay 25% of the cost to repair the damage to the second car, while the second driver is 75% at fault and needs to pay 75% of the cost to repair the damage to the first car.
You hit a 2017 BMW in your 2014 Ford. You and the BMW driver each contributed 50/50 to the accident. The damage to your Ford is assessed at $2,600 and the damage to the BMW at $12,500. 50% of $ 12,500 = $6,250; 50% of $ 2,600 = $1,300. The BMW driver owes you $1,300, but you owe the BMW driver $6,250! Therefore you have to pay the BMW driver $6,250-1,300 = $4950, in addition to paying to get your own car fixed!
If you are not sure about fault, including contributory percentage, you should get legal advice.
If you own the car, but were not driving at the time of the accident, you should get legal advice about whether you are liable. The other party may choose (rightly or wrongly) to sue the driver, you or both: see the Owners and Drivers fact sheet
on the LawAccess NSW website.
If you had an accident while at work, you should get legal advice from an employment lawyer – this can be a tricky area: see the Driving for work when you are an employee or independent contractor fact sheet
on the LawAccess NSW website.
Note: The Insurance Law Service is unable to give advice about whether you are at fault or not.
You can start by contacting LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529. You may be able to get free legal assistance from Legal Aid NSW
or your local Community Legal Centre
. If you are unable to get free legal assistance, you may need to speak to a private lawyer. To find a private solicitor, contact the NSW Law Society
Step 4: Make your own demand, if applicable
If you are claiming for damage to your own car, the first step will be to make a demand against the other party, to set the scene for the negotiations. See:
Your letter of demand to the other party will ask them to pay you the cost of repairing the damage to your vehicle (or market value if it is a total loss), as well as any other losses that resulted from the accident. Attach your itemised quote/s and invoices (it is generally a good idea to get more than one quote). The letter should tell the other person how much you are claiming in total, and when you would like the money to be paid to you.
Step 5: Negotiate!
You will likely need to write to the other party, setting out:
- The basis on which you deny you were at fault, and your best case as to why the other party was at fault, including any evidence or road rules on which you rely.
- Your claim for damages to fix your car and your demand for payment (if applicable).
- Any dispute you wish to raise about any claims made against you for damage to the other car (e.g. you don’t agree they can claim for damage to their left-hand door when your car only made contact with the right side of their car, or their repair costs are much higher than the attached costs quoted by your smash repairer) – make sure you include any evidence you have.
- Your settlement proposal.
You should mark any negotiations “without prejudice” so you can argue that they cannot be used as admissions in litigation in the future - but can be used in relation to any dispute about the costs of proceedings. This correspondence must also have a clear offer of a negotiated outcome (such as a full and final settlement offer of a reduced amount, or that both parties “walk away” and agree to cover their own repairs).
Step 6: What do I do if we reach a settlement?
If you reach a settlement, try and get it in writing and in full and final settlement of all claims arising from the accident. You should always get any settlement confirmed in writing.
You should also be clear on what it is you are settling – is it all losses arising from the accident, or just the cost of repairs, or just hire car costs.
If you only settle the repair cost, you can be chased later for other costs (e.g. hire car) from the insurer, or the other party directly.
To find out how to confirm a settlement see:
Step 7: What happens if we cannot agree?
If the parties cannot agree, then it is open for either party to commence legal proceedings (go to court). If you wish to continue to press your claim for damages, the next steps
- send a letter of demand, which outlines your damages and the date by which you want the money paid; and then
- if the demand is not paid by the demand date, consider whether to commence a claim in Court.
- make a claim in the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) if (and only if):
- You are not at fault (the other party caused the accident)
- Your damage is less than $15,000 (or you are willing to accept $15,000 as your maximum loss); and
- The other party is insured (and claims on their insurance), or the other party has died or cannot reasonably be found.
If you do not meet the requirements for AFCA, you are limited to Options 1 and 2, that is send a letter of demand and commence a claim in court (if the demand is not paid).
If the other party commences court action, you would then need to consider filing a defence to a claim against you (and prove any cross-claim you chose to make against the other party asking the Court to order they pay you damages). The LawAccess NSW website has more information about representing yourself
after a car accident, including how to respond to a statement of claim
The Court may make orders that one party pay the other party's costs – for instance, the Courts may order the losing party pay the reasonable legal costs of the winning party. If the claim is under $20,000 and run in the Small Claims Division of the NSW Local Court, the amount of legal fees is capped according to a scale based on the amount being disputed. Information about court fees and legal fees in the Small Claims Division can be found on LawAccess NSW’s What can they claim?
The LawAccess NSW website has more information about going to court
. You may need to get legal advice from a private solicitor before commencing legal action or filing a defence. To find a private solicitor, go to the NSW Law Society
website. If you have limited means, contact your local Community Legal Centre for advice. To find your nearest Community Legal Centre, use the Community Legal Centre NSW’s directory