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Can I claim car insurance if it is my fault?

Can I claim car insurance if it is my fault?

If you’re involved in a car accident, your first concern would be about injuries to yourself or others; next, you’ll worry about damage to your vehicle.

Keep in mind that anyone driving a vehicle registered in any Australian state needs to carry at least a compulsory third-party (CTP) car insurance policy. A CTP policy covers a driver’s liability for injuries caused to others in a car accident.

Depending on the insurer, you may also be able to buy coverage for your injuries as well. Some states are also taking steps to ensure  CTP policies cover anyone injured in an accident, irrespective of who’s at fault.

What if someone without insurance is at fault in a car accident?

It’s illegal in Australia to drive a car without at least CTP car insurance. Drivers without CTP may have to face severe penalties even for just driving their vehicle if caught on a traffic camera or pulled over by a police officer. If a driver has a CTP policy but no other car insurance they’re unlikely to face penalties for not having additional cover.

In a scenario where a driver without any car insurance is involved in a car accident where they’re at fault, they’ll likely have to pay the medical expenses for any injuries, as well as compensation for damage to any cars or property. Depending on the nature of the accident and the kind of injuries and damage caused, the costs can be high. If the uninsured driver is unable to pay these costs, they could even face a court proceeding. 

Driving without car insurance is unrelated to being at fault for an accident. However, confirming who is at fault for the accident may be necessary before a claim can be finalised with any insurers. For instance, two drivers may be equally at fault for the accident, in which case they’ll have to split the costs. If one driver has not purchased car insurance, they will have to pay the expenses themselves. Some insurance policies do include coverage for injuries or damage caused by uninsured or underinsured drivers.

How to file a car insurance claim if it’s my fault?

When you’re involved in a car accident, you may get a letter of demand from the other people involved or their insurer. This letter will be asking you to pay for either their treatment or for repairing their car. You can consider seeking legal advice about contesting the claim if you feel the accident was not entirely your fault. Another alternative is to speak to your insurer about the accident. They can then review the accident description to confirm if you were at fault and need to pay for injuries suffered by the other person and deal directly with the other insurer. 

If you opt to do this, your insurer may then ask you to pay the costs and reimburse the amount to you after deducting the excess. If you’re unsure of your excess, it’s the amount you agreed to pay out of pocket when buying the policy and can be found in your policy documents. Depending on the level of your cover, you may also be able to file a claim for your medical or repair expenses. Alternatively, you may also be able to file a counterclaim if the accident was even partially another driver’s fault, and seek compensation from them. 

Do I always have to file an at-fault car accident insurance claim?

While you don’t always need to file a car insurance claim after an accident, consider letting your insurer know about the accident. It may be that neither you nor the other driver is fully responsible for the accident. Luckily there was little damage and no injuries. If the damage to your car isn’t covered by your policy, or you feel repairing it won’t cost more than the excess on your policy, you can choose not to file a claim.

You can also check if your insurance premium includes a no-claim discount, which may be affected if you choose to file a claim. Having an accident on your driving history may result in you paying a higher premium, irrespective of whether you report the accident to your insurer. It may help to speak to your insurer in good faith after an accident, even if you don’t plan to file a car insurance claim. When doing so, make sure you describe the accident in as much detail as possible, paying particular attention to how your driving skills didn’t contribute to the accident.  

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Alex Ritchie before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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