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What to do if you’re in a car accident

Although it happened years ago, Brigitte clearly remembers the time she rear-ended somebody. She was upset, her kids were crying, and the driver was furious, shouting and waving his arms threateningly. “It was all I could do to not break down,” she recalls.

Whether you caused the accident or you are the victim, there is nothing pleasant about being in a car accident. “Emotions, and adrenaline, are running high, however it’s important you know what to do and what information to collect to get through the process efficiently,”says Mike Anderson at BrokerLink.

After you’ve taken a moment, assess the damage and address immediate danger. If anyone is injured or uncooperative or you suspect a driver is drunk or guilty of another Criminal Code offence, call 911 immediately. If someone is injured, do not move them—unless you must get them away from immediate dangers such as fire or traffic. Drive your car to the side of the road if it is safe to do so. If you can’t move it, turn it off and put on your hazards, and use cones or other warning devices to alert or redirect drivers around the scene.

If the damage to your vehicle is major, report the accident to the police. In Ontario, if the damage to your vehicle is major and exceeds more than $2,000, report the accident to the police and visit the closest Collision Reporting Centre. If your vehicle is not drivable, arrange a tow truck to take your vehicle to the nearest Collision Reporting Centre. In Alberta, you must notify police when the total damage exceeds more than $2,000.

“It doesn’t take much to reach that, so be sure to look closely,” says Mike. “Consider the value of your car and the nature of the damage.”

Make sure you get all the relevant details. Mike cautions you to be careful in your exchanges with other parties. “Never admit fault or agree to pay for repairs out of pocket.”

All drivers involved in an accident should obtain the following:

  • name, address and phone number of each driver and each vehicle’s registered owner
  • driver’s license number, insurance company and policy number of each driver
  • license plate number of each vehicle
  • name and phone number of any passengers and witnesses.

It’s helpful to record the details of the incident as well. Keep a disposable camera in the glove box or use your phone to photograph the scene, noting the cars’ position and direction. Also include the date, time, location, your speed and road and weather conditions.

Now you’re on your way, assuming the car is drivable. If it’s not, have it towed to a repair shop. In Ontario, be sure to report to a Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours of the collision. If your car is not driveable, have it towed to the nearest Collision Reporting Centre.Without exception, towed vehicles in Ontario must go directly to a Collision Reporting Centre.

Report the collision to your insurance company as soon as possible and Mike recommends reporting to your local insurance broker as well. “We can help to discuss the impact of the collision on your insurance so there is no surprise when you receive your renewal,” says Mike. Also, your insurance broker can help out if you have any questions about the claims process.

“My insurance company arranged the appraisal, recommended a body shop and even set up the car rental for me,” says Brigitte. “It turned an unhappy situation into a pleasant one, all things considered.”

“The claim and repair process should go smoothly,” says Mike. “You’ve already had one unpleasant experience. Getting the damage fixed shouldn’t be another.” BrokerLink works with you to get the coverage you need. “We’ll find just the right policy. No more, no less,” he assures. “So if you ever have to make a claim, there will be no more nasty surprises.”

Download the Collision Checklist and keep a copy in your glove box to record all the information you need.

To get more information about finding auto insurance with the best coverage and value in mind, contact your local broker.