What to do if you’re in a car accident

Written by Trudie McConnochie for Real Car Insurance.

No-one expects to be in a car accident, yet each year many Aussies will find themselves in that unfortunate situation. When you’re in shock, it can be difficult to know what to do, so here we’ve outlined your obligations for the first 24 hours after you have had an accident in your own car, and how to make an insurance claim.

There are a few rules that generally apply after a car accident: you must stop and help  anyone who needs it, call an ambulance if required, and call the police if there’s a death, injury or someone is trapped. (You may also need to call the police in certain other circumstances; see below to find out the rules for your state or territory.)

It’s also important to make sure your car or property isn’t causing a hazard, which means activating your hazard lights, calling a tow truck (if needed) and sweeping away any glass, if it’s safe to do so.

Gathering information

You and the other drivers or people involved (such as the owners of any property damaged) will need to exchange details, including names, addresses, phone numbers, licence, insurance company and details about their car – i.e. make, model, colour and registration. If there are witnesses, make sure you get their contact details too.

It’s important to take down as much information about the accident as possible while it’s fresh in your mind, so that you can make an insurance claim later. Make a note of the location, a description of what happened, the extent of the damage, and, if relevant, the name of the tow truck company used. Don’t forget to jot down the date and time as well as the speed you were travelling and weather conditions (if applicable). If you have your phone handy, take photos of the cars and property damaged otherwise you can draw a diagram showing the positions of all parties involved.

What not to do

When you’re talking to other drivers or people involved in the accident (such as property owners), don’t admit any guilt, fault or liability except to the police. Also, avoid making any offers about repairs, costs or claims.

When to call the police

If there’s no death or injury caused, you might be wondering whether you need to call the police. The rules are different in each state and territory, so it’s a good idea to look them up and get familiar with the ones that apply to you. Generally, you are required to call the police in:

New South Wales

  • If you think alcohol or drugs are involved
  • If a vehicle needs to be towed
  • If anyone involved has failed to stop or provide their details
  • If police need to direct traffic or deal with hazards


  • If any property is damaged
  • If other driver(s) haven’t stopped nor provided their details


  • If you think alcohol or drugs are involved
  • If the other driver(s) didn’t provide, or is refusing to provide, their contact details
  • If someone with an impairment or disability needs police support
  • If police are needed to deal with traffic congestion or other hazards (e.g. power lines down)


  • If vehicles are being towed or carried away
  • If the other driver(s) didn’t give you their contact details

Northern Territory

  • If there’s damage to animals or property
  • If the other driver(s) didn’t provide their contact details

 Australian Capital Territory

  • You must report all vehicle collisions online within 24 hours if police have not attended. Police will attend:
  • If it’s suspected that alcohol or drug use contributed to the accident
  • If the accident is disrupting traffic
  • If anyone is in danger

South Australia

  • You must call police, or report car accidents to police within 24 hours of the crash (which you can do online):
  • If property damage exceeds $3,000
  • If the other driver(s) didn’t give you their contact details
  • If any vehicle has been towed or carried away

Western Australia

  • You’ll need to call the police (or report the crash online) if the accident occurred on a road or in a space used by the public, and:
  • If property damage exceeds $3,000
  • If the owner (or representative) of the damaged car or property is not present

Making an insurance claim

Check your insurance policy, paying special attention to the excess and exclusions, to see if you’re covered for the accident. You are always able to lodge a claim for consideration. If you only have third party insurance, the cost of damage to your car won’t be covered under the policy terms, but you may need to claim for damage to the other person’s car if you’re deemed liable.

If you have a Real Car Insurance policy, we can assist you with lodging your claim. Simply contact us on 13 19 48 to make a claim, or, to speed up the process, register for an online account and lodge your claim online.

Car accidents, theft or damage are never planned – but unfortunately, they can happen. One of the most pro-active things you can do is protect yourself from the unexpected, such as with car insurance. Head online today to find out more about Real Car Insurance and get a car insurance quote within minutes.