What to Do in Case of a Car Accident

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Outside of a demolition derby, car accidents aren’t high on anyone’s list of fun things to do. While car safety has never been better and the risk of injury is substantially less than a generation ago, any collision can be emotionally jarring.

Know the Steps

Given the confusion that may occur after an accident, it’s good to familiarize yourself with what to do when you’re not in the midst of the maelstrom. Consolidated from several Ontario sources, here is a list of things you can, should and, in some cases, must do following a collision. Print this article if you like and place it in your insurance and ownership folder.

  1. Stop your car. If you’re in an accident and you don’t, you could be liable for prosecution for that alone.
  2. If anyone is injured, appears impaired or if damage to all vehicles seems to be above $1,000, use 911 to call emergency services. Follow the instructions given by the operator. Remain calm.
  3. Do not attempt to move anyone injured in the accident, unless they are otherwise in grave danger of further injury.
  4. If no one is injured and total damage appears to be less than $1,000, contact local police. They may or may not dispatch officers to the scene. In that case, they will give further instructions on how to report the accident, either at a Collision Reporting Centre or a local police station.
  5. Secure the accident location. If it is safe to do so, move cars off the road and out of traffic. Otherwise, use cones, flares, traffic triangles and car emergency flashers to made the accident scene as visible as possible.
  6. Photograph the scene if it’s safe to do so, and preferably before the cars are moved.
  7. Don’t argue with other drivers or passengers. Though it’s difficult for good Canadians, don’t apologize. It can be misconstrued as admission of guilt.
  8. Use your cell phone to record audio at the scene if necessary.
  9. Record names, addresses, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, ownership and insurance information for anyone involved. Use a cell phone camera to save time, but be sure images are legible, particularly if your hands are shaking due to the effects of adrenaline.
  10. Record details of the accident; what happened as well as road conditions, date and time. You can download an accident worksheet from the Financial Services Commission of Ontario here.

When to Report an Auto Accident

Many drivers decide not to report auto accidents in order to avoid higher insurance rates. However, not reporting an accident to your insurance company may not be the best decision. When should you report a car accident, and what are the consequences if you don’t?  The following guidelines will help you decide on the best choice of action in the event of an accident.

Reporting an Accident Within Your Province

report car accident

Police Reporting

Every province has a specific dollar value to estimate property damages that determine police involvement. Alberta’s threshold is $2,000 while the threshold amount in Ontario is $1,000. What’s this means is that you do not need to report an accident to the police if the total amount of the damage is less than that the threshold defined by the province. Note that this threshold amount includes damages to each vehicle separately.

Insurance Company Reporting

The terms of your insurance policy sometimes mandate you to report all accidents, regardless of the extent of the damage. Even if you pay for the damages out of your pocket, you may still need to inform your insurance company of any collision. Check with your provider to confirm.

Reporting an Accident When Damages or Injuries Exceed the Threshold of Your Province

Police Reporting

It is mandated by law that you report a collision if the estimated value of the damages exceeds your province’s threshold. If you’re an Alberta resident, and one vehicle sustains $1,000 in estimated damages while the other vehicle suffered a damage of $1,001, your are obligated to report the collision to the police.

Insurance Company Reporting

It is mandatory that you report all collisions to your car insurance company. If you decide not to report it, and the other driver involved in the collision does, the other driver’s insurance company could contact yours in the process of settling the claim. If, during the claim process, evidence suggests that you were wholly or partially at fault for the accident, your insurance rates may increase even if you paid for the damages yourself.

Consider the following examples where reporting an accident is mandatory, regardless of the value of the damaged property:

  • Injury (no matter how minor) or death
  • A government vehicle (Federal, Provincial or Municipal)
  • A criminal act (impaired driving, for example)
  • A vehicle that is transporting dangerous goods
  • Damage to private or highway property (telephone pole, homeowner’s lawn or guard rail)
  • Unlicensed or uninsured drivers
  • Pedestrian or bicyclist involvement

Deciding not to report an accident to the police and your insurance company may get you into severe trouble. Apart from the fact that you may be found guilty by law for not reporting the situation, your insurance rates will also be affected. If you are not at fault, your insurance rates will not be affected. There are safe ways to get cheap car insurance. One way is to compare quotes from top insurance companies using our online comparison tool to find out if you are paying a competitive insurance quote.

There are safe ways to get cheap car insurance. One way is to compare quotes from top insurance companies using our online comparison tool to find out if you are paying a competitive insurance rate.

After the Accident

Some people may try to deal with the other driver and settle up without reporting the accident, but you have no guarantee after leaving the scene that the other driver will do what is agreed. Don’t assume your insurance rates will automatically go up in the aftermath of a collision. Many companies offer accident forgiveness on a driver’s first collision, so fares may not change at all. This is also true if you are not at fault. As well, you can contact your insurance company and decide not to file a claim after discussing it with them.

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