Car accidents 

I’ve just had a car accident, what should I do?

If you are still able to drive the car, and it's safe to do so, pull over so that it is out of the way of other traffic and switch on your hazard lights. Check whether anyone has been injured - if necessary ring 111 for the Police and/or ambulance.

If someone has been hurt, you have to report the accident to the Police as soon as possible - within 24 hours at the latest (unless you cannot do so because you have also been injured).

But if everyone is alright then your next thought should be insurance and any damage to your car. Don't admit liability as this may prevent your insurance provider from sorting out your claim. Make sure you swap details with the other drivers involved.

You will need to know their

  • name
  • address
  • phone number
  • car registration details
  • insurance company details

If someone hits your car and they have no insurance, then make sure you get their

  • name,
  • licence number and 
  • the contact details of any witnesses.

If a police officer is present, make sure to get their name and contact details.

As soon as you can, contact your insurance provider so that they can settle any claims arising from the accident. There’s more information about claiming insurance following a motor vehicle accident elsewhere on this page.
If you witness a traffic accident you can report it to the Police by dialling *555 from your mobile phone.

The NZ Road Code has more about what to do if you are in a car accident, or witness one.

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I accidentally drove into an unoccupied parked car and I don’t know who the owner is. What should I do?

If you damage someone else's property you are required to give your contact details and registration number to the owner within 48 hours, unless you have been injured and are unable to do so.

The NZ Roadcode says that if you don't know who the owner is or how to contact them, you should report the incident to the Police within 60 hours of it happening. You could also leave a piece of paper with your details tucked under the windscreen wipers of the car. 

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How do I get my damaged car towed away from an accident?

Check with your insurance provider whether your policy includes a towing service and whether the service will come to the scene of an accident. If you aren't covered for this, you may need to pay for a local towing service to come and take your vehicle away. 

Breakdown services, such as those offered by the Automobile Association and some insurance companies, don't normally cover towing your car away if it has been damaged in an accident. 

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My car was hit by another car, and neither of us is insured. What can I do about the damage to my car?

As neither of you is insured then you and the other driver can try to come to an agreement over who is liable to pay for the cost of repairing the damage to the cars involved. It is useful to get a few quotes for the repairs so you know how much to claim from the other driver (if they are at fault).

If one of you agrees that they are at fault and will pay for the repairs to the other’s car, it’s a good idea to get this in writing in case there’s a dispute about it later.

If you can’t agree on who should pay, either party can make a claim at the Disputes Tribunal to settle the matter.

Note that the Disputes Tribunal can help determine who should pay, but they can’t help if one party has agreed they are at fault, but refuses to or cannot afford to pay.

You can read about your options for recovering money owed to you on our Recovery of debts page. 

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I had a car accident – I’m not insured but the other driver is. What should I do?

The Insurance Council recommends that in this situation you contact the other driver’s insurer and they can tell you what to expect. Once the insurer has determined what repairs are needed to the insured vehicle, and how much the repairs will cost them, they will send you a letter telling you how much they want you to pay them back.

If you don’t believe you were at fault (and therefore shouldn’t have to pay the repair costs), make sure you tell the insurer. They may apply to the Disputes Tribunal, in which case you’ll need to attend a hearing. You can read more about the Disputes Tribunal process.

It’s important that when you receive the bill you pay the insurer rather than the vehicle owner. 

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My car was damaged when I swerved to avoid a farm animal which was on the road. What should I do?

First report the wandering livestock to:

  • the Police on *555 from your mobile phone or
  • the animal control officer of your  local district council or 
  • the NZ Transport Agency (0800 4 HIGHWAYS or 0800 44 44 49)  if the road is a state highway.

Try to find out who owns the animal. The owner of the animal can be held liable for repairs to your car. If you have comprehensive motor vehicle insurance cover (rather than third-party cover only), you can make a claim and your insurer will try to recoup the repair costs from the animal owner. More about making an insurance claim is below.

If you are uninsured and the farmer who owns the animal is insured, you may be able to get compensation through the farmer’s insurer (see our Vehicle insurance page for more about this). Otherwise you will have to deal with the animal owner directly.

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I've had a car accident and want to claim insurance. What do I do?

To make an insurance claim after an accident, you need to follow any instructions your insurance company gave you when you initially took out the insurance. 

Before you leave the scene of the accident:

  • write down the name, address and phone number of any other drivers involved, along with their vehicle registration number and the name of their insurance company
  • give these same details about yourself to the other driver/s
  • write down the name, address and phone number of any witnesses to the accident
  • write down, as soon as you can, as much as you can remember about the accident, including:
    • the time of the accident
    • where it happened
    • the weather and road conditions 
    • the speed at which you were travelling
    • your estimate of the speed of the other vehicles involved.

Remember never to admit fault at the scene of the accident. It is up to the insurance companies to work out who was at fault. If you admit fault this can make it harder for your insurance company to sort things out with the other drivers involved. It could result in your claim being cancelled.

You might like to read the information on our Vehicle insurance page.

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I was in an accident and the other driver claims it’s not their fault, what can I do?

The other driver might just be following the advice of their insurance company. The best thing you can do is to follow the procedure described in the answer to the previous question

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The other driver drove off without leaving me their details, but I got their registration number. Can I use this to track down the driver?

You can try making a request to the NZ Transport Agency, online or by downloading and completing an “Application for registered person name and address” form. It costs $15. Your request is treated as an Official Information request. You won’t necessarily be given the information you have requested.

If you believe the other driver was driving in an unsafe manner you could report it to the Police (call *555 if it’s not an emergency, or 111 if it is).