At Motor Legal, we’re often approached for guidance on vehicle damage claims after a traffic accident. Although we usually only act in cases involving personal injuries, we have compiled a guide to assist you.
If you have been injured in a traffic accident, read our article on How To Make A Personal Injury Claim; if you have a vehicle damage claim only, read on.
In an accident where one or both parties are uninsured, there is, unfortunately, little in the way of support to assist you through this process.
Generally, it is not worth hiring a lawyer to deal with these claims because:
- Legal fees often outweigh the claim’s value, making it financially impractical.
- There’s a slim chance of recouping these legal costs from the third party or “at fault” driver.
Your case may differ, and we encourage you to seek advice if you feel it is appropriate or if the damage claims is significant.
The DIY Guide for Vehicle Damage Claims
If you decide to handle a vehicle accident damage claim yourself, there are a number of things you will need to get right. At a minimum:
- Photos: Capture images of the accident scene and damages to all involved vehicles.
- Invoices: Retain copies of towing and storage charges if your vehicle was towed post-accident.
- Repair Estimates: While you aren’t legally bound to get multiple repair estimates, having two or three can be beneficial. It demonstrates that you are being reasonable in your effort to minimise repair costs.
- Hire Charges: Document any costs incurred for renting a vehicle while your car is being repaired.
Note: Always choose a reputable repair service. While you don’t have to opt for the cheapest service, try and ensure the repair costs are reasonable.
Reach Out to the Third Party
- Communicate (preferably in writing) your intention to hold them responsible for the damages.
- Share the repair estimates and ask them to forward these to their insurance provider. If they’re uninsured, request information on how they plan to address your claim.
- Allow them the option to have someone suitably qualified inspect your vehicle within (say) 7 days to verify the extent of damages and the fairness of the quoted repair costs.
Wait for Their Response
Give them about a week to respond. A cooperative individual will likely address the matter within this timeframe. If they agree to cover the costs, you need to agree on how and when the payment/s is made. If they dispute the matter or refuse to pay, you will need to pursue them.
Issue a Final Notice
If they’re unresponsive or evasive, send a final notice. Inform them that you’ll initiate court proceedings against them to recover your losses if they don’t respond within seven days.
If all else fails, take the matter to court. In Western Australia, most claims are processed in the Magistrates’ Court. For claims up to $10,000, the “Minor Claims” procedure applies. It’s an affordable, straightforward process designed to function without lawyers.
More details on this process can be found here.
For claims exceeding $10,000, the “General Procedure” is followed, where some legal costs can be recovered.
By following this guide, you can navigate the vehicle damage claim process more confidently and give yourself the best chance of recovering your costs and getting back on the road.
While engaging lawyers to assist in the recovery process might not be cost-effective, you can take comfort that most claims are settled between the parties without needing to escalate the matter.
Frequently Asked Questions
At Motor Legal, we’ve observed that the legal fees for vehicle damage claims often surpass the actual claim value.
Additionally, there’s a minimal likelihood of recovering these costs from the third party or the “at fault” driver. However, if damages are significant or you believe legal advice is necessary, we encourage seeking it.
Document everything related to the accident, including photos of the scene, damages, invoices for towing or storage, repair estimates, and any hire charges for a rental vehicle.
Then, communicate with the third party to discuss responsibility and potential compensation. If they’re unresponsive, consider sending a final notice and, if necessary, initiate court proceedings.
While it’s not a legal requirement to obtain multiple repair estimates, having two or three can be advantageous. It showcases your diligence in trying to minimise repair costs and can provide a clearer picture of the expected expenses.
If the third party is uncooperative, send them a final notice stating your intention to initiate court proceedings if they don’t respond within seven days. You might need to take the matter to court if they don’t cooperate.
In Western Australia, the Magistrates’ Court handles most claims. For claims up to $10,000, the “Minor Claims” procedure is applied, which is designed to be affordable and straightforward, usually without the involvement of lawyers. For claims over $10,000, the “General Procedure” is used, where some legal costs might be recoverable.
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