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So a car crashed into your house? What the law says in SA

2017-09-20 11:17

WHAT A CRASH: CCTV footage captures the moment a driver accidentally hits the accelerator of his SUV instead of braking and ends up landing on a rooftop Image: YouTube

Cape Town - Hitting another vehicle is one of most common forms of vehicle crashes in South Africa but what happens if you damage more than just a fellow road user’s car?

Despite the regularity of crashes on our roads motorists are often not clued-up as to what the law says regarding damaging someone else’s property (i.e a house). 

Don't flee the scene

Legal experts LawForAll share some insights: "The process doesn’t differ too much from a typical usual car-on-car accident. Legally, you are obliged to stop after hitting a car, person, animal or property (this can be a house or shop, for instance). If you decide to flee the scene, you could face a fine of up to R180 000, time behind bars (up to 9 years) or both.
"Of course, if someone is injured, you have to call emergency services. If the negligent party was under the influence of alcohol, they could face various criminal charges such as: reckless driving, negligent driving, culpable homicide, civil damages claims or a civil claim for personal injury, to name a few depending on the circumstances."

Watch: Audi TT crashes in Sandton 


LawForAll said: "If no one is hurt and the damage is minimal, the next step will be to move the vehicle so that it does not obstruct traffic and cause problems for other motorists. However, the post-accident positions of the car must be marked off on the road before it is moved. It is a great idea to take photos with a smartphone as they will help later during the claim process."

Note:  In the unfortunate event that a person is hurt, only a police or traffic officer is allowed to indicate whether or not the car may be moved from the scene of the accident. Furthermore, the SAPS will only come out to the scene if someone was hurt but the accident must be reported to the police within 24hrs.

Has a motorist damaged your property? What was the outcome? Share your story with us!

What happens if a vehicle damages your property? 

LawForAll: "If the tables are turned and you suffer damages to your property, you can lodge a claim with your insurance provider within the required time frames. The insurance can settle the claim in full and will probably institute a civil claim against the negligent party. If you don’t have insurance you will have to institute a civil claim.
"It’s important to know that you are legally entitled to claim compensation if another driver caused the accident and your property is damaged as a result." 
It’s highly recommended that you do the following: 
  · Get full names and ID of the driver and any witnesses
  · Obtain the driver's (and witnesses’) address, email and phone number
  · Take pictures of the damage to your property
  · Write down a detailed description of the vehicle – colour, make and model, registration number
  · If the police, traffic officers or medics show up, take down their details

Image: iStock


What is a Letter of Demand?

LawForAll: "If you are relying on the good faith of the driver to pay for the damages to your property, it’s advisable to obtain at least three quotes for the repairs and present them to the driver.  Be sure to keep a very thorough paper trail and document all correspondence, so that you evidence to fall back on should you need to. 

"Needless to say, there is always a strong chance that this won’t run too smoothly, and it is worth knowing that the law is on your side. If the driver doesn’t pay for the damages, you can send a letter that brings them to terms; meaning, you serve them with a Letter of Demand.
"The letter must set out who was involved, what happened, the amount that must be paid to restore the property and the date by which it must be paid (a 14-day grace period is recommended). Make it clear to the driver than if he/she doesn’t pay up, you will institute a civil claim for damages."

Gather the following documents:
  · Proof of ownership of property (Title Deed)
  · 3 quotes for damages
  · Accident report
  · Statements from witnesses and your own version of events. 

Watch: Drivers stop fleeing motorist from crash scene

Bear in mind, you will only have 3 years from the date of the accident to claim, if not, the claim will lapse and there won’t be recourse. If the claim is for more than R15 000, it will have to be lodged in the Magistrates Court, and it is a good idea to get a lawyer’s assistance. For anything below R15 000, the Small Claims Court can be of assistance.

Remember, while accidents do happen, it’s important to drive responsibly at all times.  As they say, prevention is better than cure.

Has a motorist damaged your property? What was the outcome? Share your story with us!


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