Being involved in a car accident can be a traumatic experience and with over 125,000 collisions* over a one year span in Canada – knowing what to do before an accident happens helps to avoid mistakes that have the potential to be harmful and expensive. Additionally, it can help to eliminate stress, confusion and keep one focused. Every driver should be prepared in the event of an accident occurring. In the glove compartment of the car, keep a pencil (a pen can dry up or freeze), a piece of paper, a note with medical information for all family members and your car insurance slip.
Steps to follow in case of an accident:
- Check to make sure everyone is ok. If there are any injuries, call 911 immediately to obtain emergency medical assistance.
- If no one is seriously injured and if the cars are drivable, move them off to the side of the road and out of the danger of moving traffic.
- Stay calm and it is recommended that you do not admit fault of an accident at the collision scene.
- Take down the information of the people involved in the accident; including names, addresses, phone numbers, vehicle information (make and model), driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and car insurance information.
- Obtain the names and contact information of any witnesses that saw the collision. If you’re unable to obtain the witnesses’ contact info, take down the make and model of the witnesses’ car as well as the licence plate info.
- Document all damage in detail and if possible, take pictures; this may help during the claims process.
- Make note of the accident and be sure to include details such as the exact location, how it happened, the speed that you were driving and any other relevant details. This will help you remember all of the details when filling out an accident report and/or contacting your insurance company.
- In Ontario, if the damage to the vehicle or property is over $1,000, you must, by law, report the accident to the police or collision reporting centre. If the damage is under $1,000, you’re not required to report the accident to the police. Since each province varies in the amount for reporting collisions, be sure to check the amount for your province.
- A police report of the accident is always a good idea to have documentation when making an insurance claim.
- Find out the exact details of your policy to help you understand your coverage. For example, does your insurance policy cover towing or a rental vehicle?
- When filing a claim with your insurance company, have all of the accident details ready for explanation.
- Request details of medical benefits coverage in your policy (if required).
Once a claim has been filed, a claims adjuster will be assigned to the case and make contact. The adjuster is responsible for determining the extent to which a claim is covered in the policy and guide the policyholder through the whole process. In most cases, the entire process can be taken care of over the phone. A Proof of Loss form and a sworn statement supporting the claim may be required.
The police investigate and determine whether the law has been violated, but it is the insurance company that will likely determine accident fault following The Fault Determination Rules as outlined in The Insurance Act. It is possible for the police to find that one is not at fault, but the insurance company may still hold them responsible. A driver can be between 0 to 100 percent at fault. Any driver who is found to be more than 0 percent responsible for an accident will likely get an at-fault accident entered on their insurance record.
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*according to Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics: 2009