Car accidents happen unexpectedly no matter how safe you are.

What to Do After a Car Accident: Your 10 Steps


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No matter how little or often you’re behind the wheel there’s always a risk of getting into a bingle. Accidents can easily happen, regardless of how safe you are. It’s a scary experience but there’s plenty you can do to stay calm, alert and well-armed to make an insurance claim before the car towing even occurs. Let us help you know what to do after a car accident.

Hopefully you’re reading this before it happens so you know what to do when it does! Read on…

#1 Stop the car immediately in a safe area

If you’re involved in a car accident, the first thing to do is stop (if the impact hasn’t done that already).

Move your car to as far off the side of the road as possible so you don’t block traffic. Regardless of whether you can move your car or not, also turn on the hazard lights to warn other drivers.

Then, get out of your vehicle and move to a safe place. Remove any dangerous items from the road if you can do that without risk. If your or any other vehicles needs to be towed or someone is hurt, stay at the scene of the car accident until emergency services arrive.

Leaving the scene after a serious accident you’re involved in is a criminal offence in Australia.

Leaving the scene after an accident you're involved in is a criminal offence in Australia.

How do you know whether to call the police?

It depends on the law in your state or territory. For example, NSW Police says:
“It is a legislative requirement in NSW that drivers involved in a crash report it to police if a vehicle involved in the crash is towed or carried away by another vehicle. This requirement also applies to crashes involving deaths or injuries, and where involved parties have failed to exchange particulars.”

So, if car towing is needed it’s a serious enough crash for you to call the authorities. The same applies if someone is hurt. More on this in step number three below.

#2 Check others are unhurt after a car accident

Check your passengers and call an ambulance immediately if they’re seriously injured. Make sure you check on other drivers, passengers and pedestrians to make sure they’re okay too.

If needed, administer first aid until help arrives and rope in others around you to help. Always being prepared with first aid supplies in your car is important – read about all the things you should have in your car survival kit.

#3 Call emergency services if necessary

Obviously it’s important to call emergency services for an ambulance if someone is hurt. Speak to them about the incident to see if they need to send over any other services. For example, the fire brigade or traffic authority may need to attend for safety reasons.

It’s also crucial to call 000 if property has been damaged or the owner of the other vehicle refuses to give their personal details. You can also report if the other party seems to be intoxicated by alcohol or drugs.

man in grey car pulled over by police highway patrol car on side of road after a car accident

Rules for reporting to the police after a car accident

A major car crash needs to be reported to the police within 24 hours. A major accident may involve:

  • Where someone was injured or killed
  • Details between parties were not exchanged
  • Vehicle or property damage is estimated to be around $3,000 or more

While minor accidents need not be reported, it’s always a good idea to file a police report anyway as insurers often ask for it when filing a claim. Notify the police by dialling 000 at the scene of the accident or heading over to the police station afterwards if it’s not an emergency.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, you must report within 24 hours. If you fail to comply, you’re in violation of the law.

If in doubt, call anyway and emergency services can guide you towards the best path forward.

#4 Take down car accident details and plenty more

While car accidents are stressful, try to not lose focus – remember to swap details with any other party involved in the accident. In doing so, take note of their:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Driver’s licence number
  • Registration plate
  • Car model
  • Insurance provider details

Also be sure to get the details of the accident down in your mind before you potentially forget. Your insurer and/or the police will need that information. Which leads us to…

#5 Take photos of the car accident scene

It’s important to also take photos of the incident scene if possible, including your vehicle and other vehicles with their registration plates showing. If safe, take plenty of photos of the whole situation from plenty of angles.

Take photos of the front and back of the third party’s licence too, especially if their current address isn’t on the front.

These days most of us have a smartphone on hand, so if that’s you then please make the effort to grab photos. This will help your insurance provider – like PD Insurance – and other parties understand what’s happened.

does car insurance cover towing? This couple's plan does, so they know what to do after a car accident

#6 Speak with witnesses

It’s a good idea to ask for the contact information of anyone who witnessed the car crash. A witness statement could be helpful if the other party disputes your account of how the accident happened, or who was at fault.

Again, you want to make it as simple as you can for police and your insurance provider to understand exactly what happened. Arm them with information so they can follow it up quickly.

#7 Arrange a tow truck and grab your belongings

You’ll need to arrange for a tow truck if your car is undriveable. The process can be done yourself, through roadside assistance and/or you can request a tow truck from your insurer (if you’re covered in this way).

Remember to remove any valuables from your vehicle before the towing. Things go missing and that’s the last thing you need after going through a traumatic event like a car accident.

Know your rights when using a tow truck after a car accident

When it comes to accident car towing services, there are laws that protect your rights. Tow truck drivers should follow these steps before towing a damaged vehicle from a crash scene:

  • Explain the extent of your right to choose the tow destination.
  • Provide details of, or a fact sheet about, your rights. If they can’t explain them, think twice about using the service.
  • Ensure that the person signing the Authority to Tow is provided with a copy of the agreement.

Choice has a great article providing tips for what to do if you need car towing – see here.

#8 After a car accident occurs, do not admit fault

Even if you think you’re responsible for the car crash, don’t admit fault on the scene of the accident to others on the scene. Just report it to your insurer and let them guide you through the rest. Your insurer (and/or police) will assess the accident and decide if you are indeed at fault.

Simple as that.

While car accidents are stressful like this one, try to not lose focus - remember to swap details with any other party involved in the accident.

#9 Contact your insurer about a car accident claim

Whether you have comprehensive insurance or third party insurance outside your CTP, you should call your insurance provider as soon as possible. The sooner your insurer knows about the car crash, the sooner they can process your claim. As mentioned, they may even be able to help you source car towing.

Car insurance policies differ but your insurer will generally need:

  • Names, contact details, and licence numbers of other parties
  • Date and location of accident
  • Weather conditions at the time
  • Other parties’ insurance details
  • A summary of how the accident happened

Photos will also be helpful, as will witnesses’ contact details.

#10 Review your car insurance

OK so this step isn’t time-crucial and doesn’t even need to connect to an accident… It always pays to be on top of your car insurance. Know what you have insurance cover for (or not) so there are no surprises after a car crash.

It also pays to review your insurance policy regularly, as you could be unaware there are potential savings! It’s worth shopping around.

Find out more about car insurance

Looking for more information about car insurance? The following articles might be of interest to you:

Seriously consider comprehensive car insurance

When you have car insurance, you and your family are protected against financial losses. In addition to comprehensive car insurance, PD insurance also offers third party property damage insurance and third party fire and theft insurance.

Why not get a comparative quote from us? Comprehensive car insurance doesn’t have to cost a fortune; you’ll see.

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