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The 5 essential things to do after a car accident


Almost one in five Australian drivers has been in an accident in the past five years — and with the number of cars on the road rising, the risk is likely to grow2. Whether you're involved in a minor prang or a more serious crash, the most important thing you can do is stay calm. Take a deep breath and follow these five steps.

Step 1: Stop, and get safe

The first thing you may want to do after an accident is get out and check the damage — but it's critical that you check it’s safe to do so first.

If possible, move your car off the road or onto a quiet side street to reduce the risk of blocking or being hit by passing traffic. But don’t go too far — you need to stay as close as is safely possible to the scene of the accident, or risk facing a criminal charge.

If you can't drive or push the car to a safe place, switch on your hazard lights immediately to ensure maximum visibility.

Step 2: Make sure everyone is okay

Next, you'll want to make sure that no one is injured — and that means you, your passengers and the driver and passengers of the other vehicle. If someone has been hurt, your first priority is getting them help, so phone an ambulance right away.

Step 3: Swap information

Once you've ensured that your vehicles and their passengers are safe, it's time to exchange details with the other driver. Remember that if the driver doesn't actually own the vehicle involved in the crash, you'll need to get the contact information for the owner too. To help with your insurance claim, write down the driver's:

  • Name.
  • Address.
  • Phone number.
  • Registration number.
  • Driver's licence number.
  • Insurance company and policy number.

Do I have to call the police?

Generally speaking, you'll only need to call the police if someone is injured, is affected by drugs or alcohol or refuses to exchange details — or if the accident has caused a public hazard, including traffic congestion or oil spills. However, the rules are different between states and territories — so check with the police or road authority in your area.

Step 4: Check the damage

Before driving your car away from the scene of the accident, check it thoroughly for damage to work out whether it's safe to drive.

If you're not sure, it may be best to call a tow truck. Either at the site or once you're home, you'll want to take photos of the vehicle to back up your insurance claim. When you take the car to a smash repairer, you'll get a vehicle damage valuation with a quote for the amount you'll need to pay to get the car fixed. Keep a copy of this document as your insurance company may need to see it.

Step 5: Contact your insurer

Most insurers recommend that if you have an accident, you let them know straight away.

Don’t admit fault — even if you think you’re in the wrong. That’s because the insurance companies will ultimately decide who was at fault when determining whether to pay a claim — and negotiate expenses with the other driver's insurer to cover the cost of repairs. However, you do need to be honest about what happened, or you risk getting into trouble or voiding your claim.

Your insurance company will have its own paperwork or online form for you to fill in, using the information you collected at the scene of the accident, as well as your policy number, details about how the crash occurred and how much the repairs will cost. If you’re injured, you'll also need to keep track of medical treatment so it can be added to the cost of damages.

Get the right cover

Car insurance is an important way to protect yourself from unexpected costs, and to keep yourself on the road. But the right cover can be expensive, so consider packaging your insurance with your new car finance to make it easy to manage the cost of premiums.

Find out more about our flexible car insurance and finance options.

Roy Morgan Research, Traffic accidents increasing on Australian roads, 2013.

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