What to do after a Motor Vehicle Accident
“It’s better to be safe than sorry” is sound advice when you’re involved in a collision. More than one third of Canadians experience a motor vehicle accident at least once in their lives, so chances are that you or someone you love will be impacted by a car accident, pedestrian accident or another type of automobile accident.
Most importantly, you need to follow Ontario regulations for reporting the collision. Not only is this the right thing to do from a legal standpoint but further, a police report or collision report will serve as evidence of the accident in the event that the report is needed to substantiate your losses or another driver’s negligence. And, if you were involved in an accident, even a minor fender-bender, whether or not you initially feel unhurt, be prepared for the possibility that you may have sustained an injury. Injuries such as concussion, sprains, and neck and back injuries may not show their effects until several days or weeks after the accident and may worsen if untreated.
Ontario regulations governing collision reporting
You must stop after a collision to ensure that there was no damage to property, vehicles or another person, or you may be charged with ‘failing to stop’.
If total damage is likely less than $2000 and no one was injured, you are not obligated to report the accident. Nevertheless, it’s still in your best interests to take your car to a Collision Reporting Centre within 1 day of the accident, so that pictures are taken of any damage to the vehicle and you are covered legally if someone discovers they were more seriously injured than first thought and/or a civil action is later brought in connection with the accident.
Ontario law requires that you report an accident under the following circumstances:
anyone was injured
a pedestrian was involved in the accident
the total damage to vehicles and property appears to exceed $2000
one of the drivers is uninsured or unlicensed
you believe a driver is impaired or guilty of another criminal offence
a government vehicle was involved or government property was damaged
Normally, you must call 911 to report an accident. However, depending on the circumstances, police may decide not to come to the scene of the accident, in which case you must take your vehicle to the nearest Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours.
Steps to take to protect yourself and others
If your vehicle is driveable and it’s safe to move it, move your vehicle to the side of the road and out of danger from being hit by traffic. If your vehicle is disabled and can’t be moved, engage the hazard lights.
If someone was injured, don’t try to move them and call 911.
Don’t discuss the circumstances of the accident or admit liability with other involved parties or witnesses. Discussing the accident may contribute to emotional outbursts and may make you vulnerable in a future liability action. However, you should exchange the following information with any involved drivers:
Driver’s name and contact information
Drivers licence license number
Insurance company and policy number
If the accident involved more than a very minor impact or you think there’s a chance you may have been injured, get checked by your doctor or at an emergency clinic as soon as possible to ensure that you don’t have an injury that could put your health at risk if untreated.
Many unsuspecting motorists have been taken advantage of by tow truck scams, so be wary of tow trucks that show up at the accident (including tow truck drivers who claim that they were called by the police). And, don’t let anyone tow your vehicle without reading the towing agreement and first getting a quote on the cost.
Call your insurance company to report the circumstances of the accident. This step is required under Ontario insurance policies, even when the collision is minor and was not reported to police. Your insurance representative should inform you of any further steps that may need to be taken and deadlines for making a no-fault accident claim.
If you sustained an injury, talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer to ensure you are taking the right steps to protect your legal rights. A personal injury lawyer will also make sure you don’t miss any timelines for making your claim. For example, if a municipality or government vehicle was negligent and contributed to your injuries, you must notify the municipal clerk within 10 days of the accident.