A lot of questions will go through your mind when you get into a car accident.
Is anyone injured? What’s the damage look like? What’s the other driver’s licence plate number? What’s their insurance information? Is it necessary to call the police? Where’s the nearest collision reporting centre?
And then, once the shock has worn off, you’ll likely ask yourself another question: how long do I have to file a claim with my insurance company?
Here’s what you need to know.
How long do you have to report an accident to insurance?
In general, it’s best to report an accident to your insurance company as soon as possible.
That said, each insurance company will have a different policy around this, so it’s important to look at the details of your insurance policy.
According to the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario, which regulates auto insurance within Ontario, you should report an accident to your insurance company within seven days, or as soon as possible after that.
In Alberta, the government recommends that you “advise your insurance company, regardless of which driver was at fault, as soon as possible.”
If you’re unsure of whether or not it’s worth it to make a claim, you can always ask your insurance company first. You’re not likely to be penalized simply for asking that question. But you could have your claim denied if you fail to report the incident.
What happens if you take too long to report an accident?
You could face some challenges if you fail to report your accident to your insurance company within the required time frame.
For example, you might have a hard time filing a claim or could risk having your claim denied altogether. If you think about it from your insurance company’s perspective: how will they know that the bodily injury you’re claiming to have experienced is from this accident and not a different one?
There will be limits in your policy that state how long your insurance company has to settle your claim. That’s why the sooner you report it, the better.
Failing to report an accident to your insurance company on time could also result in your settlement being delayed. If your vehicle needs repairing, or if you have injuries that you require treatment for, you could be left waiting longer than is ideal for the funds to cover these costs.
If in doubt, look at your insurance company’s reporting guidelines or contact them directly. This will give you a clear understanding of how long you have to report, and what information is necessary when you do go to file a claim.
Of course, if you choose not to report the accident to your insurance at all, and settle the damages out of pocket, you need to be aware of the risks. Your insurance company needs to be kept aware of any collision that occurs. If the other party later decides to report the accident to either the police or their insurance company, then there’s a good chance your insurance company will find out, too, and they could penalize you in the form of higher premiums or cancel your auto insurance policy altogether.
How long do I have to report an accident to the police?
When it comes to reporting the accident to police, the “sooner-the-better” rule applies even more.
In Ontario, police will generally only attend the scene if someone is seriously injured or if the damage appears to be over a certain amount. This can be a challenging thing to identify when you’re shaken up after an accident. But if someone is hurt, then you should definitely call the police.
Then you need to get yourself (and the other driver should do this as well) to the nearest auto collision reporting centre within 24 hours. There, you will fill out a car collision report with the following information:
- Your insurance policy number
- Your vehicle’s make, model, year, and licence plate number
- The details of the accident (date, time, location, your description of what happened)
- The other driver’s name, licence plate number and insurance information
- Any injuries that happened as a result of the accident
- The damage to the vehicle (including any photos)
- The name of the police officer who attended the scene, if applicable
A copy of this report will get sent to your insurance company and will be used to assess your claim.