Getting caught up in a car accident is something none of us plan to do. Ever. But when it happens, you can be left wondering exactly what happens next and what your responsibilities are.
There are clear laws about when to report an accident in Ontario that all drivers should get familiar with. Learning them after an accident happens is definitely going to be learning the hard way.
Let's look and what you should do and what you definitely should not do if you have the misfortune to have a car accident in Ontario.
Do You Know When to Report an Accident in Ontario?
The fact is, most of us aren't sure when we have to report an accident. The first thing to do after an accident is stop. This is crucial. Leaving the scene of an accident without stopping is a serious matter. It can lead to demerit points on your licence and worse.
Once you've pulled over and taken a breath, get out if safe to do so. Take a look at the scene. If anyone has an injury, you must call 911 or ascertain that another person has already done so. Carefully follow the operator's instructions. Don't attempt to help the injured person without medical advice.
Assessing the Scene
Once help arrives for the injured, take a look at the scene. It's good at this point to take some photos and videos on your camera phone. They can be very useful afterward if any follow-up is needed by the police or insurance companies.
The government actually provides a handy accident worksheet. Print a few out now and keep them in your car. Everybody's nerves are jangling when they've just been involved in a collision, however minor. This sheet can help you to collect all the information you're going to need down the line.
Moving to Safety
If safe, and possible, to do so, move your vehicle onto the shoulder or away from the main flow of traffic. If this is not possible, make your vehicle as visible as possible. Put the hazard lights on. If you can find a traffic cone or flag, place it prominently to keep other vehicles away.
How Serious Is the Accident?
The answer to this question determines whether you need to call the police right away or not. You don't need to immediately call the police if the following are true:
- nobody involved is injured
- you believe total damage to ALL vehicles to be less than $2000
If either of these is not true, you need to call the police. Also, you must call the police if you suspect that any of the other drivers are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If you have any suspicion, you have a duty to report in Ontario.
It may be difficult to assess the damage as most of us are not trained in this field. But if the damage seems to be very minor and there are no injuries to anyone involved, you can move on to the next step. That will mean reporting to a collision reporting centre.
What Happens if You Don’t Report an Accident?
If the accident seems minor, it could be tempting to shake hands and walk away. However, the law is clear - all accidents resulting in damage or injury must be reported. Failure to report could result in:
- Conviction under the Highways Act for leaving the scene of an accident
- Demerit points on your licence
- A fine between $400 and $2000
- Licence suspension of up to 2 years
- Jail - if the accident is serious
Clearly, there's no excuse for driving away from an accident. These are just the legal ramifications. If your insurance company finds out that you failed to report, it could also lead to your insurance being cancelled.
By going through the proper channels, you protect yourself. The police and insurance assessment at the collision reporting centre may reveal damage that is more serious than $2000. Handshake agreements made with other drivers can often go sour. If they back out, you'll be left picking up the tab, at fault or not.
It might seem like a hassle to report even a minor bump, but following the guidance on when to report an accident in Ontario - and how - will save you a huge headache down the line. Collision reporting centres are designed to streamline the process though, to take up as little of your time as possible. It's worth it for the peace of mind of knowing there won't be any nasty surprises waiting for you.
How Much Time Do You Have to Report an Accident?
If the accident is minor, with no injuries and total damage less than $2,000, you have 24-hours to report the accident to a collision reporting centre.
If the accident is more serious you must report it. If you have any suspicion that any party involved is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you must report it. No ifs, no buts.
When the police arrive they will take over. They will ensure that an accident report is completed, the scene is properly logged, and the required legal steps are taken.
Do You Have to Report an Accident to Your Insurance Provider?
All claim accidents, that is those that require you to report to the police or to a collision reporting centre, must be reported to your insurer. This should be done as soon as possible after the accident.
How Insurers Assess Claims
After receiving an accident report, the insurance company must determine fault. This is a legal process done in accordance with the Insurance Act and Fault Determination Rules.
They will look at set diagrams covering over 40 different car accident situations to find the one that applies to your scenario. All insurers must apply the same rules. They apply even when there were contributing factors such as adverse weather or poor visibility.
The amount of compensation you will receive will depend on your insurance company and policy and whether you were found at fault. Your insurance company will be able to advise you on the level of compensation you are entitled to.
If You're "At Fault"
Fault may be ascribed to one or more parties in an accident. Based on how the insurers determine fault, they will then take the claim forward. Fault is determined on a percentage basis from 1 to 100%. If the insurer deems that you were at fault, this will go on your insurance record.
Expect your premium to rise for the following year if you were found to be more than 50% at fault. If you lent your vehicle to someone else and they were in an accident, this could also affect your premium. If they are more than 50% at fault, it will go on your insurance record.
How to Report an Accident
If you have an accident involving any damage to any vehicle, however minor it must be reported. There are two possibilities - reporting it to the police directly or reporting to a collision reporting centre.
Reporting to the Police
If there are injuries or the damage is greater than $2,000, you need to call the police immediately. This also applies if anyone is suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Simply dial 911 or call your local police station.
Reporting to a Collision Reporting Centre
If any vehicle sustains damage in the collision, the accident must be reported to a collision reporting centre. Collision reporting centres are a collaboration between the police, insurance companies and private enterprises. They have been set up with the goal of reducing the time and inconvenience involved in handling minor accidents.
Check online to find the nearest collision reporting centre to you and report the accident within 24 hours. There, a police officer will inspect the vehicle. They will assist you to complete a government collision report form. The police officer will check the form, and once filed, you are ready to contact your insurer.
Reporting to Your Insurance Company
Once you give your insurance company a call, they will talk you through the next steps. Make sure that you have the following information to hand:
- Your car insurance policy number
- Full details of your vehicle, including registration and licence plate number
- Accident details – including the details of the driver, if someone other than the registered owner was driving
- Date, time, and precise location of the accident
- The extent of injuries to any parties
- How many passengers were involved
- How much damage was done to the vehicle
- Your personal account of the accident
- Details of all drivers involved - names and driver's licence numbers, their insurance companies, and policy numbers
- Police officer name and badge number (if it was reported to the police)
This rather exhaustive list emphasizes the value of the government-provided accident worksheet. This provides the prompts you need to ask the right questions at the time. It's a good idea to print a few copies and keep them in your glove compartment at all times.
Getting It Right: Reporting Car Accidents in Ontario
We hope you're never in an accident, but they can happen to even the safest drivers. Knowing when to report an accident in Ontario can help you in the event you one day hear that dreaded crunch. With the knowledge we've shared in this article, you are now ready to collect the information you need and handle the follow-up.
At Insurdinary, we help you compare insurance providers. If you are ever involved in an accident, we want you to have the best coverage, tailored to your needs.
Use our car insurance quotation tool to start looking for the right deal for you.