This article has been updated from a previous version.
Being involved in a collision is scary, and coming out of one isn’t any easier. Even the best drivers can falter behind the wheel and feel lost when trying to ensure their physical and financial safety.
From calling the police to reporting a collision to filing a claim with your insurance company, there’s a lot to know if you ever happen to be in a car crash. To simplify things, here’s a step-by-step guide for everything you need to do after a collision.
What to do immediately after a collision
Step 1: Stop. Not halting after an accident is considered fleeing the scene and is treated as a criminal offence in many provinces.
Step 2: Check to see if anyone’s injured and assess property damage. Check for injuries to yourself and your passengers. Do not move those who are injured until the police and paramedics arrive.
Once it’s safe to leave your vehicle, assess the damages to your car and the other vehicle. Record as much of the scene as possible with photos or videos. And if possible, move your vehicle out of the way of traffic. Otherwise, use your hazard lights to tell other drivers to drive around you.
Step 3: Call 911 and wait for the police to arrive. Once you’ve assessed the physical injuries of everyone involved and have an idea of the damages, you may proceed with one of the following:
If there are personal injuries to either driver or passengers involved, if the combined cost of damage is more than $2,000, or if drugs or alcohol were involved call 911 to report the collision.
In the case of fender benders with no personal injuries and minor damage, you may not have to involve the police at all. Instead, go straight the collision reporting centre.
When help arrives, recount how the collision happened and answer all their questions to the best of your knowledge. Be ready to share your driver’s licence number, vehicle registration number, and insurance policy number with the police.
Hot tip: Never accept responsibility
When you know you're at fault, it might be tempting to verbally take responsibility for the collision and settle the damages without involving the authorities. However, this is not advisable, as the cause of a collision can only be determined after an investigation. Also, almost every insurance policy stipulates that the policyholder should not assume liability. Let the insurance claims officer complete their investigation and be the one to assign fault.
Step 4: Exchange personal and insurance-related details with the other driver. When filing a car insurance claim, you’ll need the following details from the other driver involved in the collision:
Name, address, and phone number
Make, model, and year of their vehicle
Licence plate, vehicle registration, and drivers licence numbers
Name of the other driver’s insurance company, and their insurance policy number
Name and phone number of any witnesses, if applicable
Keeping an accident worksheet in your vehicle can come in handy when gathering information.
Step 5: Report the collision to your insurance company. While you have up to seven days to report the collision and file a claim with your insurance provider, it’s highly recommended to call your insurance agent as soon as possible. Your insurance company can send an adjuster to the location of the collision and guide you on how to file a claim. If there is a police officer at the scene, their assessment of the collision could be shared with the insurance company as it is considered to be unbiased.
What to do within hours after a collision
Take your vehicle to a collision reporting centre. If you were involved in a minor mishap behind the wheel that led to no personal injuries and little vehicle damage, then you can head to a collision reporting centre instead of calling the police. Officials at the centre will take your statement as well as any pictures of the damage to your car.
Fill out the collision details form. After a few days, people tend to forget the minute details of a car crash. To improve your chances of the insurance company adjudicating the claim in your favour, fill out a collision details form as soon as possible. This form can be downloaded from the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario website. Record the information about the collision in detail, and refer to this document when filing the claim.
Read your car insurance policy. Before you file an insurance claim, it’s important to understand the details of your policy, such as the type of coverage you have, the deductible you need to pay, and so on. Call your insurance agent to discuss the scope of your insurance policy, and whether it makes sense to file a claim or pay out of pocket. If you do file a claim, it’s a good idea to compare car insurance rates before you renew your policy so you can be sure you’re getting the lowest rate possible.
What to do within a week after a collision
File an insurance claim. Once you’ve decided to file a claim, get in touch with your insurance agent to assist you with the claims process. Most insurance companies have online claims forms that you can complete. You will need important details like:
Your name, the name of your insurance company, policy number, driver’s licence number, vehicle registration number, licence plate number, and the make and model of your vehicle.
Name and details of the other driver involved in the collision such as their insurance company, policy number, driver's licence number, vehicle registration number, licence plate number, and the make and model of their vehicle.
Date, time, and location of the collision.
Overview of personal injuries and property damage.
A detailed description of the collision.
If the collision was reported to the police, then provide the name and badge number of the investigating officer.
Pictures of the scene of the collision and damages to the vehicle.
Contact information of any witnesses, if applicable.
While you should always drive safely, you never know what might happen. It makes good sense to always be prepared with all the information you might need in case of a collision.
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