What to do after a car accident that's not your fault | finder.com

Not at fault car insurance

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Find out how you can avoid paying for damage to your own car if you were involved in an accident that you did not cause.

The issue of liability – in other words, who caused the accident – is probably the single most loaded topic in car insurance. This is because accidents result in expenses that must be paid, sometimes running into millions of dollars, and whoever is responsible normally needs to pick up the bill.

If you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident through no fault of your own and your car is damaged or written off, you have several options of receiving a payout from a car insurance claim.

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When would I be not at fault for a car accident?

In the field of car insurance, liability is considered exclusively in relation to motor vehicle accidents. There are plenty of other situations in which your car can be damaged through no fault of your own, ranging from vandalism to bushfire or hail. Damage of this kind is usually covered by comprehensive car insurance, but you may still have to pay an applicable deductible.

When two or more cars are involved, the percentage of liability is often shared between the parties. However, there are some situations in which only one driver is likely to be considered completely at fault.

  • Admitting liability at the scene. In the aftermath of any accident, if Driver A says something like “I didn’t see you” or even apologizes to Driver B in the presence of witnesses, courts frequently consider this to be an admission of liability and Driver A will automatically be found at fault.
  • Intoxication. Fault will typically be assigned to a driver who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, if the other driver is not intoxicated in any way.
  • Getting rear-ended by another driver. If someone runs into the back of your car, they will almost always be considered at fault.
  • Failing to obey a yield or stop sign. If it can be proven that the other driver failed to give right of way to you and you were driving legally, they will usually be found at fault, unless there was any action you could have taken to prevent the accident, such as swerving or applying the brakes.
  • Running a red light. If another driver collides with you as a result of failing to obey a traffic signal, they will be found at fault in most cases. Again, if you had any option of trying to prevent the accident, but failed to do so, you may be liable for contributing to the accident due to negligence.

To claim or not to claim?

When thinking about whether or not to claim for an accident in which you’re not at fault, the most relevant factor is whether you can get the other party to pay for the damage.

If the liability for the accident can be swiftly and unequivocally determined – and that’s a big “if” – then the best course of action is usually to approach the other driver.

In some cases, for example if the other party is uninsured and cannot pay you for the damage done to your vehicle, it might make sense to claim on your own insurance if you can’t pay out of pocket.

If the damage to your car is very minor and you do not have a reasonable option of getting the other driver to pay for it, it’s usually not worth making a claim. Also, if a deductible applies to your policy and the cost of repairing the damage is not much more than your excess level, it might not be worth the trouble of pursuing a claim when you’re unlikely to receive much reimbursement.

Does my level of insurance impact what I can claim?

Comprehensive insurance usually covers you for all types of damage to your vehicle, regardless of whether or not you’re at fault. If your insurer agrees that the accident was completely the other driver’s fault, you may be entitled to claim under a third party policy.

Many insurers stipulate that the other driver must not have insurance that can cover the damage to your vehicle for you to make this kind of claim, and the maximum benefit you will receive is usually $5,000. You will usually be expected to provide the other driver’s name, address and registration number.

What do I need in order to make a claim?

  • Record the other driver’s details. Your insurer will need their name, address and phone number, as well as the registration number of the car they were driving.
  • Make notes at the scene. Write a brief summary of what took place as soon as possible after the accident. Accounts that are recorded immediately after an incident are called “contemporaneous evidence” and they hold a lot of weight in court.
  • Ask witnesses for their contact details. If possible, ask any witnesses present to also jot down their description of what happened at the time of the accident.
  • Take photos of the scene. Pay particular attention to not only the damage your vehicle sustained, but the final resting positions of all the cars involved, any skid marks and damage to surrounding objects such as traffic lights. Add GPS tags to your photos if you have the option.
  • Submit any footage of the event. If you have a dash cam recording of the accident, this will also be very valuable for your insurer.

Will a claim affect my premium or my no-claim bonus?

In most cases, if your insurer agrees that the accident was caused exclusively by the other driver, you will not be penalised even if you make a claim.

Depending on your level of cover and the specific conditions listed on your certificate of insurance, there may be some circumstances under which your no-claim discount will be affected, even if you have purchased protection against this.

Read your product disclosure statement (PDS) and certificate of insurance carefully to avoid any nasty surprises.

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Do I go through my insurer or the insurer of the at-fault driver?

If you have comprehensive insurance yourself, the only situations when you can approach the other party’s insurer directly is if the other driver has died or cannot be located. Under virtually all other circumstances, your initial point of contact needs to be the driver who is at fault.

You have the option of assigning a lawyer to act on your behalf, and if the other driver decides to claim on their insurance, the insurance company will most likely contact you to request information and possibly access to your car so its representatives can make an independent assessment of the damage.

Will my car be repaired or written off?

It is up to your insurer to choose whether your car will be repaired or declared a total loss, and that normally comes down to whatever is the cheaper option for them. If there is any question about whether or not your car can be repaired well enough to be safe to drive afterwards, you have the right to obtain an independent assessment.

If you can provide evidence that your insurer is pressuring you to repair a vehicle that would be more safely written off, you have the option of opening a case with the Financial Ombudsman Service.

What happens if my car is written off?

There are two main categories when your vehicle can be written off, and different rules apply for each of them.

A statutory write-off means that your car will never be safe to drive again, no matter how much repair work goes into it, in which case it cannot be registered again.

A repairable write-off means that the cost of repairs exceeds the sum insured, and normally your insurer will keep the vehicle and pay you its agreed or market value.

You can make a request for your insurer to let you keep a repairable write-off, for example if it has sentimental value, and pay you the sum insured less any salvage value. Not all repairable write-offs can be legally re-registered, so this is an important point to check before applying to keep a badly damaged vehicle.

How to make a claim

If you do plan to make a claim with your own insurer, requesting a claim form is usually the safest option because you can carefully prepare your answers to all the questions. If your insurer offers the option of processing your claim over the phone, you run the risk of being put on the spot and not answering a question as well as you could have if you’d had the chance to think about it.

  • Take your time. Don’t start the claim process while you are still in shock or emotionally upset after the accident.
  • Prepare yourself for a phone claim. If you decide to place your claim over the phone, think carefully about what you are going to say and keep your descriptions simple, neutral and objective. Remember that the conversation will normally be recorded by your insurer and may be referred to later in the process.
  • Refer to your notes. Use the summary you wrote down at the time of the accident to help you answer the questions on the claim form or over the phone.

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10 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    SinieMay 14, 2018

    My car was hit from behind the other party did admit it was his fault no damage was done to my car but his car had minor damage I took his license plate down we didn’t exchange information this is my first accident I don’t know what I should do any advice?

    • finder Customer Care
      ArnoldMay 14, 2018Staff

      Hi Sinie,

      Thanks for your inquiry

      It is important to exchange information with the persons involved in the accident. Since you already have the plate number, it would be best to contact your insurer and discuss the situation with them. They will guide you through the process of dealing with this. You may also seek the help of a legal adviser to help you contact the other party and make sure only legal actions are taken.

      Hope this information helps


  2. Default Gravatar
    SoniaMay 8, 2018

    My vehicle was in a minor car accident, clearly not my fault. My photos were not good enough for the other party’s insurance and It was considered a “He say/ She say” and Case closed. I was able to provide more photos from different angles clearly showing it was not my fault. The insurance company Adjuster said she would review the case with the new evidence. It’s been 14 months since the accident and the insurance company will not respond anymore What can I do? Thank you for your time

    • finder Customer Care
      JoshuaMay 8, 2018Staff

      Hi Sonia,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well for you. :)

      I’m sorry to hear about your predicament. First, it is important to discuss with your insurer your situation. There are different people whom you can talk to. If the company adjuster isn’t doing you any good, then you might try reaching out to other people within the company. It could be the manager, supervisor, or any other people.

      If they are unresponsive, it would be a good idea to visit their office in person if that is possible.

      If this isn’t enough and after doing everything within your power to resolve the issue with the insurer, you might want to seek the help of the State Insurance Commissioner. They have public officials who regulate the insurance industry in your state. They can help you investigate any unfair handling of your case.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!


  3. Default Gravatar
    MMarch 31, 2018

    My car was hit while it was parked. The other driver admitted it was 100% his fault. My car was new condition with only 8 month of age and 7000 Kms of mileage. The repair estimation is over $9000 dollars. I am worried about the deprived value and also wouldn’t keep a heavily repaired car. How strong is my position to have the insurance company cover the cost to buy the same new car less the market value difference of the two?

    • finder Customer Care
      JoshuaMarch 31, 2018Staff

      Hi M Kim,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder.

      I understand how frustrating your situation can be.

      Regarding your question, I can’t give you a straightforward answer. It really depends on your chosen insurer. The best way to know is to directly get in touch with them.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!


  4. Default Gravatar
    kimMarch 27, 2018

    i recently was in accident sever damage to my car unfortunately i was not warranted…no damage to ither car as i got rare ended..what happens now

    • finder Customer Care
      joelmarceloMarch 27, 2018Staff

      Hi Kim,

      Thanks for leaving a question on finder.

      I strongly recommend that you clarify your issue with your insurance provider so you can get a direct advice. If you already did speak to them and you have proof that your insurer is pressuring you to repair a vehicle that would be more safely written off, you can consider opening a case with the Financial Ombudsman Service.


  5. Default Gravatar
    DavidMarch 20, 2018

    My wee van which has huge sentimental value but market value of only a couple of hundred quid was hit by another car and i know for a fact the cost of repair will exceed the value. Can i still make a claim and keep the van? Eg. Not have ot written off. Or do i have to jist let it go and not claim. Which to me is absolute rubbish as the insurancr is more than the value in the first place

    • Default Gravatar
      AndyMarch 20, 2018

      Hi David — thanks for reaching out to the finder team.

      As a rule of thumb here in the US, a vehicle is considered “totaled” by an insurance company if the repair costs exceed 60 or 70% of the vehicle’s current market value. From what you’ve shared here, it seems likely that your van will be written off by your insurance company if you file a claim for the damages.

      In that case, you could still keep the van. You’ll receive a payout for approximately what the vehicle was worth just before the accident, minus your deductible and the salvage or scrap value of the van if you decide to keep it for yourself. Some of that is explained in this article, in the section titled “What happens if my car is written off?” One possible issue to keep in mind here is whether the vehicle can be insured and driven in the future. Once a car has been marked as totaled by an insurer, other insurance providers may not be willing to cover it for you.

      If you have more questions, it may be helpful to discuss this with your insurance agent. Your agent can guide you through your options, including whether or not filing a claim would even be the best course of action here.

      We hope this was helpful and that you have all the information you need!


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