When You Should Report a Car Accident

If you are in a collision, when should you report it to the police and your insurance company? Below are a few valuable guidelines to help you if you get in a collision.

Reporting a Car Accident When There Are No Injuries and Damages Are Less Than $2,000

  • Reporting to the police. Each province sets a dollar value for estimated damages that determines if you need to involve the police. In Alberta and Ontario, for example, the threshold is $2,000. What does that mean? It means you are not required to report an accident to the police if the total damage is less than that outlined by the province. This limit includes the damage to both vehicles. The damages limit in Ontario and Alberta is $2,000.
  • Reporting to your insurance company. Your car insurance policy states that you are required to report all accidents, regardless of the amount of damage. Many drivers believe that if they pay the damages themselves, they don’t need to involve the insurer. That is not true. Your insurer needs to be kept in the loop of any collision.

Even if the damages do not meet the provincial threshold limit for reporting to police in Ontario, for example, you still need to report the incident to your auto insurance company.

Tip: Installing a dashcam recorder in your vehicle may increase the chances that your insurance company will side with you in case of a claim.

Reporting a Car Accident When There Are No injuries and Damages Are More Than $2,000

  • Reporting to the police. You must report an accident to the police if the damage exceeds your province’s limit. In other words, if you’re an Ontario resident and one vehicle sustains $1,000 in damages, and the other vehicle has $1,001 in damages, you are required to report it to the police or a Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours.

Failing to report an auto accident to the police when it’s required by law means you are running the risk of being charged with leaving the scene. Leaving the scene of a collision is a serious conviction that could result in a hefty increase to your car insurance rates, fines, and even jail time.

  • Reporting to your insurance company. You are required to report all collisions to your auto insurance company. If you don’t and the other driver does, their insurance company could contact yours in the process of settling the claim. If you are partially or wholly at-fault for the collision — even if you paid for the damages yourself — your rates might reflect that you were involved in an accident.

Collisions on Private Property and in Parking Lots

For the most part, a parking lot accident is no different than a collision that occurs while driving on a street, road, or highway. Notify the police if there are injuries, or if the damages appear to exceed your province’s threshold. Though the incident may be on private property, you need to notify your insurer if you’re involved in a collision.

Reporting a Car Accident Regardless of the Value of Property Damage

There are times when you must, by law, report a collision to the police no matter how much property damage there is. For instance, if the accident involves:

  • Injury (no matter how minor) or death
  • A criminal act like impaired driving
  • A government vehicle (federal, provincial, or municipal)
  • A vehicle that is transporting dangerous goods
  • Uninsured or unlicensed drivers
  • Damage to private, municipal, or highway property (like a homeowner’s lawn, telephone pole, or guard rail)
  • Pedestrians or bicyclists

You must also call your insurance provider to report the incident.

What to Do If You Are in a Collision

If you are in a car accident, the most important thing to do is to remain calm. Here are a few other things you should do:

  • Do not get into an argument with other drivers or passengers
  • Record all information. If it is safe to get out of your vehicle and you have a digital camera or mobile phone, take photos of the accident scene, as well as the damages to the vehicles in the collision
  • When it is safe to do so, move your vehicle to the side of the road. If the damage to your vehicle makes that impossible, turn on your hazard lights, and set up a road flare or safety triangle behind your vehicle if you have them
  • Do not voluntarily take responsibility for the accident or assume you are liable. Do not offer to pay the other driver for damages at the accident scene
  • Call your insurance company as soon as possible