Motor vehicle accidents
This factsheet sets what to consider if you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident in the Northern Territory.
At the scene
Immediately after the accident, it is a good idea to write down the:
- name, address, and phone number of the owner and driver of the other car;
- make, model, colour and registration details of the other car;
- details of any witnesses who saw the accident; and
- police report number from any police officers who attended.
If an accident causes damage to a vehicle or injury to a person, all drivers involved must stop and provide assistance to the injured person or the person whose property has been damaged. You must also provide your name and address at the nearest police station as soon as possible after the accident, unless police took these details at the scene of the crash.
Consider who is at fault
In most cases, an accident will be the fault of both drivers. If you are insured and decide to claim on insurance, your insurance company will work out how much each driver was at fault. If you are not insured and the matter goes to court, the court will make this decision.
In considering who is at fault, think about the following mistakes commonly made by drivers:
- Failing to keep a proper lookout
- Disobeying traffic signals and road signs
- Failing to apply brakes
- Doing a u-turn across oncoming traffic.
The following information on this factsheet applies to people who are not insured or choose not to claim on insurance.
If you want the other driver to pay for damage to your car
If you believe the other driver was at fault, you should write a letter of demand to them or their insurer, explaining the circumstances of the accident and why they are responsible.
You should include any witness statements, photographs and at least two quotes for the damage to your vehicle, or an invoice if you have had your vehicle repaired. You may also include a Motor Vehicle Crash Report, which you can obtain from the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services for a fee.
It is a good idea to write “without prejudice” on the top of any letters you send to the other driver or their insurer. This places limits on when information in the letters can be relied upon in court.
If you reach an agreement with the other driver or their insurer, you should put this in writing and have it signed. If you do not reach an agreement or the other driver ignores your letter of demand, you can take the matter to court by filing a statement of claim within 3 years of the accident. You should get legal advice before you file a statement of claim.
If the other driver wants you to pay for damage to their car
If you receive a letter of demand from the other driver or their insurer, you should respond. Be prepared to negotiate, as you will save time and money if you can come to an agreement without having to go to court. A Community Justice Centre may be able to help you reach an agreement through their free mediation service.
If you think the accident was your fault, you should offer to pay an amount that you believe is fair and reasonable. You should write that the offer is in “full and final settlement”. This means that if the other driver accepts your offer, they will not be able to go to court to get more money from you.
If you believe you were not at fault, you should inform the other driver of this in writing, and be prepared to prove this in court. The other driver may choose to start court proceedings by filing a statement of claim. If you receive a statement of claim and wish to file a defence, you should seek legal advice immediately as time limits apply.
The Northern Territory Magistrates Courts website has factsheets on how to file a statement of claim and a defence, as well as other information about the court process.
Darwin Community Legal Service
Freecall: 1800 812 953
Phone: (08) 8982 1111
Community Justice Centre
Phone: 1800 000 473
Northern Territory Magistrates Court (Darwin) – Civil Registrar
Phone: (08) 8999 6571
Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services (Information Access Team – Motor Vehicle Crash Report)
Phone: (08) 8985 8929
Darwin Community Legal Service 2015: Non-profit community groups have permission to reproduce parts of this publication as long as the original meaning is retained, and proper credit is given to DCLS as the publisher.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this publication is a guide to the law in the Northern Territory. It is not a substitute for legal advice. You should talk to a lawyer about your particular legal issue. The information contained in this factsheet is current as at November 2014.