Please note: Although Acorn is a car accident management specialist, it cannot provide specialist car accident legal advice. Nothing in this article is intended to represent legal advice in any form. If you require legal assistance, you should retain the services of a private legal professional or follow the suggestions at the bottom of this article.
Car accidents can be extremely emotional, costly and stressful events. Depending on the severity and grade of the accident, you may need to pursue legal action or protection and, therefore, get some legal advice. But even before the legal process of settling a claim begins, it is important that you know your legal rights and responsibilities as they apply within the context of a car accident and/or you know where to go to find out more and get some advice.
This article provides a summarised overview with respect to car accidents and legal advice.
If you’re the driver at fault in an accident, the first immediate legal step you need to take is to stop and provide your name and address and (if different) the name and address of the owner of your vehicle to anyone injured in the accident or anyone whose property was damaged. If you can’t find the person whose property was damaged, you need to give those details to anyone who can collect the information on that person’s behalf. If someone is injured, you must assist them and if they’re critically injured you must call an ambulance and the police.
If you’re not the driver at fault, this step is reversed and you need to protect your legal rights and interests by getting the name and address of the driver of the other vehicle and (if different) its owner.
It varies slightly depending on the State or Territory you live in but in New South Wales you must call the police to an accident if: someone is injured; one of the cars involved needs to be towed; the other driver involved fails to stop to provide their details; or, the other driver is potentially under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If in the wake of the accident you receive a notice from the police alleging that you have committed a traffic offence, you should seek legal advice immediately before responding to the notice in any way. Any response to the notice may or may not be enough to establish your guilt with respect to the alleged offence. You may also receive a claim for costs from the other driver that requires your attendance at Court. If this is the case, seek legal advice immediately.
You might be able to access free legal advice through community legal centres or through the Legal Aid offices in each of the States and Territories. In New South Wales, you can make contact with LawAccess NSW, which offers a free telephone service for advice and information relating to car accidents. To learn more about your options, visit the Law Assist website.