I was in a car accident that I was not responsible for, and I'm now required to go to court. What should I do?

Question Details: I backed out of a driveway onto the road, then an approaching car from behind me passed my car. When reversing, the passenger door of his car opened into the front right corner of my car. I suggested we call the Police. He insisted on not calling the Police, saying his insurance would take care of it. He asked me to sign a piece of paper. He has since refused to speak to me, and I have now received a "Notice of hearing". I have never been in this situation before, how does the court process work? How do I prepare for court? What steps do I need to take to win?

Filed under Driving and Traffic | 1803 View(s)

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Answers by Lawyers

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

You have not stated whether the hearing is in the Disputes Tribunal or the District Court. However, given the Police have not been involved we will assume it is the Tribunal (if we are wrong and this is a Police charge such as careless driving, please see www.communitylaw.org.nz for further information).

Disputes Tribunal hearings are conducted in a room by a referee who will simply try and get to the bottom of what happened - for more on the process see the Community Law website: www.communitylaw.org.nz. Initially however they will try to help you and the other driver to reach an agreed settlement. Failing that they will move on to hear the evidence and make a decision.

As no lawyers are allowed in the Tribunal, you will need to represent yourself. To prepare you may wish to bring along to the Tribunal relevant photographs and a scene plan (a print from an online map could be good) to be able to point out what happened and where. Bring several copies and number them so everybody in the hearing can go through them together. If you wish you can also write down a statement beforehand about what happened, then read it out and/or provide it to everyone else at the hearing.

For further information and assistance you may wish to seek legal advice (particularly if the hearing is in the District Court) or visit a Community Law Centre.

Answered 7 Oct 2013. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

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