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Hot Tips: What To Do After a Car Accident [Updated]

August 8, 2016

The moments after a car accident, big or small, can be overwhelming; leaving most people thinking what do I do now?

Your car insurance coverage is in place to help you to recover from any losses you may suffer as a result, but it’s still important to know what to do and how to protect yourself when involved in an auto accident. Here are a few tips to help you when you find yourself involved in a collision:

Safety first

Check with each passenger in your vehicle, and if possible, the other parties involved. If anyone is injured or requires medical attention, call emergency services — 911 — immediately.

Move your vehicle

You may feel it’s important to maintain the vehicle in the position where the accident occurred. But if your disabled vehicle is in the midst of traffic, this can be a danger to you and other drivers. If it’s safe to do so, move your vehicle out of the way.

Turn the ignition off as soon as possible and turn on your hazard lights to warn approaching drivers. Set out warning triangles or road flares if you have them in your emergency car kit.

Assess damages and call the police

If emergency services are not required, call the police department’s non-emergency telephone line for guidance on your next steps. In Canada, it is the law to call the police after an accident if:

  • there are any injuries, no matter how minor.
  • you suspect that another driver involved in the accident has broken the law (this includes driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol).
  • pedestrians or cyclists are involved.
  • private, municipal or highway property has been damaged.
  • a government vehicle or a vehicle transporting dangerous goods is involved.
  • the damage exceeds the provincial “limit”. For instance, in Ontario, if there is more than $2,000 in total damage (not just your car) as a result of the accident, call the police and report to a Collision Reporting Centre.

Collect information

Take note of the make, model and licence plate of all other vehicles involved. Ask all other drivers for their driver’s licence number, name, address and phone number. Also ask for their insurance information, including their policy number and provider. You should also take down the names and numbers of any witnesses at the scene.

Document the scene

Detail the location of the accident including street names, addresses and nearby intersections. Use your phone to take pictures of the scene including all relevant details (vehicle positions, landmarks, etc.), so that you have the most accurate representation possible to provide to your insurer or the authorities.

Feel guilty? Don’t admit it!

Even if you think you caused the accident, never admit fault at the scene as you may not have all the knowledge to make that decision on your own. For example, Ontario’s at fault rules (officially called Fault Determination Rules) detail more than 40 different collision scenarios to help ensure that all drivers are treated the same.

Do not try to resolve the situation on your own or make any agreements (who will accept fault, who will pay for damages, etc.) with other parties until you consult with your insurer. Your insurance company will be the liaison between you and the other driver’s provider. 

Contact your insurance company

No matter the severity of the accident, you need to contact your auto insurance provider in case the other party decides to file a claim against you. By contacting your insurance company promptly, they can guide you through the accident reporting and claims process and start working on your claim as soon as possible. You’ll also be able to provide the most accurate recollection of the event when the accident is fresh in your mind. You might have difficulty processing a claim if you’re late contacting your insurer, or if you’re found withholding details.

Knowing what to do at the scene of an auto accident will help you stay calm and ensure that your rights are respected. Making sure you’ve fulfilled your obligations will not only protect you in the long run, but it will allow your insurance company to provide you with the best coverage possible to recover from any losses suffered as a result of the collision. If your rates have increased due to an accident claim, visit InsuranceHotline.com to compare quotes and ensure you’re getting the best rate for your circumstances.

  • Mike

    when an insurance company writes off your car, do they have to include the cost of mechanical repairs over the previous 12-18 months when calculating the settlement