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How to report a car accident to police

According to Transport Canada, there are over 300,000 car accidents every year. Getting in a car accident is stressful and scary. Initially, you might feel shocked and scared – and that’s normal. However, once you’re ready — if you’re able — you might be obligated to report the accident to police. 

Here’s everything you need to know. 

When you need to report a car accident

If you’re in a collision with another vehicle and no one appears injured, you might not have to report it to authorities. In these cases, simply exchanging information with the other driver(s) involved is all you need to go about your day. 

However, if the total damage accrued – in your estimation – exceeds a certain threshold (which is $2,000 in most provinces), you are obligated to notify police. 

In Ontario, all accidents, regardless of the damage, must be reported to a Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours of the accident, though. 

What you need to report a car accident to police

You’ll need to provide several things. Make note of the date, time, location, weather road conditions, and estimated speed of the vehicles involved. 

You’ll also need to describe the accident. If you can, draw a diagram. 

Take down the other vehicle drivers’ information, including

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Driver’s license number
  • License plate number
  • Vehicle make and colour
  • Registered owner of the vehicle
  • Vehicle information number (VIN)
  • Insurance company name and policy number
  • Expiry date
  • Description of vehicle damage

How long do you have to report a car accident?

You have 24 hours to report an accident. However, if you witness an accident – and not just the aftermath – you should call the police. Police advise calling 9-1-1 if the accident has just transpired and your local non-emergency police line if the accident occurred hours prior. If there appear to be injuries or a domestic dispute, best to call 9-1-1. 

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How long does it take to file a police report after an accident? 

If the police are called to the scene – and you’re able to provide a statement – an officer on scene will take your account of the accident then and there. It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.

However, if you’re making a report afterward, you should factor in the time it takes to get a hold of an officer, either over the phone or at the station. 

How to report a hit & run car accident 

A hit and run can be especially jarring. After checking yourself and any other passengers for injuries, make sure you and your other passengers are in a safe place, which might mean exiting the vehicle. 

Don’t follow the fleeing vehicle. If you can, make a note of the other vehicle’s license plate number, as well as a description of the vehicle, including make, model, and colour. Also make note of the direction the other vehicle continued to travel in, as well as any noticeable damage to that vehicle. 

Write down the date and time of the accident as well. If you can, take photographs of your vehicle. 

Call 9-1-1 and report the accident. Give authorities the details of the other vehicle. If  any witnesses stop to check on you, ask them to give you additional details about the accident you might have missed. They may have seen it from a different perspective, and they may have noticed things you missed. 

If you can’t identify the vehicle, you’ll be paying for the repairs either out of pocket or through your insurance. In no-fault insurance provinces with Direct Compensation Property Damage, if there is a witness, you might be able to use the DCPD portion of your car insurance policy. 

Otherwise, you can claim a hit & run car accident only if you have collision insurance on your policy (if it happened while driving), or comprehensive auto insurance if your car was parked, but you’ll have to pay the deductible before the insurance company pays out the rest. Technically, you’re insurance premiums shouldn’t rise after an accident where you weren’t at-fault, but just in case they do, you can always shop for a new car insurance quote – never settle for that kind of increase. 

The bottom line

Accidents happen. They can be confusing and you may be unsure about what to do in the minutes and hours after they take place. Make sure, at the very least, you and the other driver (assuming it was a multi-vehicle accident) exchange information. If the damage appears expensive, call authorities so they can write a statement.