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Motor vehicle accidents

Motor vehicle accidents

Do I need car insurance?

Compulsory third party (CTP) insurance is the most important type of car insurance. It covers death and injury to people if you are involved in an accident. For more information on this see Making a claim - using your insurance.

You may end up in debt without additional car insurance if you are involved in an accident eg if you have no additional insurance, the accident was your fault and you damage an expensive car. For information on types of insurance, choosing a car insurance policy, and on your obligations, eg being honest when you take out insurance, go to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)'s MoneySmart website.

What do I have to do after a motor vehicle accident?

If you are a driver in an accident where anyone is hurt or property is damaged, you must stop immediately. "Property" includes motor vehicles, houses, fences, gardens, personal belongings, etc.

You must give:

  • your name and address
  • if known to you, the name and address of the owner of the car you were driving

to anyone who has been injured or whose property has been damaged, or to a police officer at the scene. If the person who was injured or whose property was damaged is not able to take the details, you must give them to anyone representing them.

You must assist anyone who has been injured. If necessary, this may include getting medical help.

What information do I need to get at the scene of the accident?

If possible, write down the following:

  • the names, addresses and insurance details of any other drivers involved
  • the make, colour, model and registration number of any other car involved
  • the names, addresses and phone numbers of any witnesses to the accident
  • notes of your conversations with other people at the scene
  • a sketch of the scene including the street names and suburb
  • time and date of the accident, road and weather conditions.

If you have a camera you can take photos of the property damage at the scene.

Do not admit that the accident was your fault or offer to pay the cost of any damage before getting legal advice.

Do I have to report the accident to the police?

You must report the accident to the officer in charge of a police station immediately if:

  • anyone was hurt or
  • if the property damage is likely to cost more than $3000 to repair.

In some cases you can be charged with a criminal offence if you do not do this. See Answering questions from the police for more information.

If you have not reported the crash to police at the scene or at a police station shortly afterwards as required in certain circumstances, crashes can be reported at the Online Crash Reporting Facility. This can be accessed at the Insurance Commission of WA ICWA or WA Police website.  

It is important to report the accident to the police if you need to make an insurance claim. The insurance company may want a copy of the accident report.

Do I have to inform my insurance company?

Most insurance policies require you to report the accident to your insurer as soon as possible. Even if you don't make an insurance claim, let your insurance company know you have been involved in an accident as soon as possible. Someone may make a claim against you or you may decide to make a claim later on.

If you did not tell the insurance company at the time of the accident, they may refuse your claim. Just telling your insurance company about the accident will not affect your no claim bonus.

Who pays the cost of repairs?

The cost of repairs to your car may be:

  • paid by you
  • claimed from the owner of another car involved, or
  • claimed from your insurance company.

Get legal advice about who was at fault. Sometimes both drivers are partly at fault. If you are at fault and your car is not insured, you will have to pay for the repairs yourself.

The other driver may also claim for repairs to their car or property from you.

For more information about claims see:

Making a claim - using your insurance
Making a claim - not using your insurance

Claim made against you.

What if I receive a prosecution notice?

The police may charge a driver with breaking traffic laws. If you get a prosecution notice, get legal advice immediately.

What if I receive a claim to go to court?

If you get court documents from the other driver claiming the cost of repairs get legal advice quickly.

What if I have been injured in an accident?

If someone was injured in the accident and wants to claim compensation for injuries, you should get legal advice quickly. See Personal injury - motor vehicle accidents for more information.

Are there time limits for taking legal action?

There are time limits within which a court case for a claim must be started. If the person entitled to start the court case is outside the time limit they may lose their right to get the court to make a decision about their matter.

The time limit may change depending on:

  • the date of the claim
  • the kind of claim
  • the age of the person entitled to start the court case (in some cases)
  • whether, when the claim arose, the person entitled to start the court case was unable to manage their own affairs as a result of:
      • mental illness or
      • intellectual impairment
  • whether the action is being taken against or for the estate of a deceased person
  • whether the person entitled to start the court case is a relative of a person who has died as a result of an accident.

In some cases the court can extend a time limit.

Get legal advice as soon as possible about the time limit for your claim.

Where can I get more information?

  • Contact Legal Aid WA's InfoLine on 1300 650 579 for information and referral including to obtain a copy of the information sheetMotor vehicle accidents - dealing with the damage. You can also get a copy from any Legal Aid WA office.This information sheet covers claims for damage and injury including insurance claims after a motor vehicle accident and includes sample letters.
  • Visit ASIC's MoneySmart website for information on insurance, including tips.
  • Consumer Protection, Department of Commerce WA  “My Dardy Car” radio series are personal stories and advice from experts about buying and keeping a car. You can listen to the My Dardy Car audio series at the Department's website. 
  • The Ask Us Facebook page from Consumer Protection, Department of Commerce WA is specifically to help  Indigenous consumers in WA know  their rights.

Last reviewed: 15/05/2015

Last modified: 20/05/2015 12:16 PM


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.