Liability and damages

 

Believing the other driver was to blame is not enough if the case is going to court. Parties need to prove their claims with evidence about what happened, how bad the damage was, and what other expenses were incurred. All these need to be proved to the court. Witnesses may need to be called and expert assessors used to estimate the damage.

Liability

In deciding which person’s negligence caused a collision, evidence can be given by the drivers involved in the collision, and by their passengers who saw or heard anything relevant. However, the best evidence is that of independent witnesses, who were not involved in the accident. For example, people in other cars or pedestrians may have seen the accident or something relevant to it. Remember, if you are making a claim, you must prove that the other person was negligent.

It is necessary to distinguish between a “complaint/summons claiming damages” and a “summons to answer a charge of committing an offence”. If the police charge a person with, for example, failing to give way to the right, and that person is convicted, it does not necessarily mean that the collision occurred solely because of that driver’s negligence. If you wish to sue that person for damages, it is possible that the court may still find you to be partly at fault (e.g. by travelling too fast, or not keeping a proper lookout).

In the same way, the fact that a person complied with all traffic regulations does not mean they are not in any way to blame for a collision, since it is often necessary to take more care than just obeying the road rules.

Damages

You must keep your loss as small as possible, and you must prove that the damages claimed were caused by the collision.

First, obtain a detailed quote for the cost of repairing your car. It is best to get at least two quotes. If you don’t, you must show that the single quote was reasonable, and the repairs could not have been done more cheaply elsewhere.

If a car is so badly damaged that it will cost more to repair than the car was worth before the collision, the car is considered to be a “write-off”. In this situation, evidence must be obtained of what the car’s market value was at the time of the collision. You cannot claim the replacement value, which may be higher. Your claim will be for the pre-accident market value less the value of the wreck (often called “salvage”).

Expenses other than vehicle repairs

Some vehicles (e.g. a taxi or a commercial traveller’s car) may be essential for their owners to earn an income. If the owner cannot work while the vehicle is being repaired, they can claim loss of wages or profits. In some cases, another vehicle may be hired and the cost of hiring claimed. However, you must show that hiring another vehicle was essential, and that there was not a cheaper method (e.g. using public transport or the occasional taxi). It can be difficult to recover the cost of hiring another vehicle, so be careful to keep hire charges moderate.

If you are selling your vehicleat the time of the accident, make sure you obtain quotes for repairing the damage before disposing of the vehicle. If the vehicle is a total loss, obtain a loss assessor’s report before disposing of the vehicle; remember to deduct any salvage value from the market value of the car.

In either case, it is desirable to have the vehicle assessed by a loss assessor so that, if necessary, you can prove the amount your vehicle depreciated as a result of the accident. A list of loss assessors can be found in the Yellow Pages, in the “Insurance Assessors and Loss Adjusters” category.