This article has been updated from a previous version.
Many questions will go through your mind when you get into a collision.
Is anyone injured? What’s the damage? 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 a car 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 to find out how many days you have to report an accident.
According to the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario, which regulates auto insurance within the province, 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 whether 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 collision to your insurance company within the required time frame. For instance, 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?
For example, if a driver were to get into a car accident with no insurance, they may put off reporting it as it is illegal to drive uninsured. And, if the driver were to wait until they had insurance to report the collision, they would also be committing fraud.
Since Ontario uses a no-fault insurance system, your insurance provider will cover your injuries regardless of who is at fault for the collision. Not reporting a collision right away can raise red flags to insurance companies and appear deceptive. No-fault accident insurance means you don’t have to sue the at-fault driver for compensation; however, you must report injuries promptly.
How to report an accident to your insurance
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 could delay your insurance company settling your claim. If your vehicle needs repairs or you have injuries requiring treatment, you could be left waiting longer than is ideal for the funds to cover these costs.
Look at your insurance company’s reporting guidelines or contact them directly if in doubt. This will give you a clear understanding of how long you have to report and what information is necessary when you 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. Offering to pay for damage can be akin to taking responsibility for the collision and admitting fault, which can work against you. The case may be that you’re not at fault for the accident, so let your insurance company use their expertise to decide.
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 provider will find out, too, and they could penalize you in the form of a higher premium or cancel your auto insurance policy altogether.
How long do I have to report an accident to the police?
When reporting the accident to the 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 call the police immediately.
When it is safe to do so, make sure you exchange details with the other driver, including your address and insurance information. Note: If no details are exchanged after the car accident, filling out the collision report will be challenging, as will making a claim.
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
The collision reporting centre should instruct you on how to report the accident to your insurance company. Additionally, they will send a copy of the collision report to them.
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About the author
Lisa is a senior editor in the personal finance space. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Toronto Life, Canadian Living and TVO. As a child, she diligently hoarded the $50 bills that fell out of her Christmas cards. Adult Lisa is working hard to resurrect those stockpiling tendencies.