Your heart’s racing. Your mind is trying to piece it all together. Heck, maybe a few cuss words are thrown around. First things first, take a deep breath, remain calm, focus on the details, and tell your story to the police. Make no promises and do not admit fault.
We’ll explain why admitting fault isn't a smart thing to do in a minute, but let's begin with here’s what to do after a car accident in Ontario:
Step 1 – Stop the car, secure your safety
If you’re in a car accident in Ontario and don’t stop the car, you could face criminal prosecution charges. Turn on your four-way lights (hazard lights, four-way flashers) and set up road flares if you have them. For safety, stay in your car.
Step 2 – Call the police
Regardless of who is at fault, or any damage done, the faster emergency crews can respond, the better chance of survival for all. If you’re the one who is suffering, you’d want the help, too. Practice your empathy and do the world a favour.
The 9-1-1 operator will tell you if police are required on the scene. The following is a rough guideline for when police should be present:
- If there are injuries;
- Should the damage to any car from the accident exceed $2,000;
- If you suspect someone is intoxicated, either by drugs or alcohol.
For minor accidents, call the collision reporting centre
If the total damage in the car accident is less than $2,000, no one is injured, and there are no signs of intoxication or other illegal activity, it’s minor. You can contact an Ontario collision reporting centre at 416-745-3301.
Step 3 – Take photos
When safe to do so, get out of your car and start taking pictures on your cell phone. Ideally, you haven’t moved your car. The photos and descriptions from all involved drivers will help determine fault for the insurance companies. Remember, Ontario uses the no-fault insurance system. So, you’ll only deal with your insurer regarding the accident.
Step 4 – Move your car
When it’s safe, and if you can, move your vehicle to the side of the road, away from traffic. If you can’t drive your car, ensure the hazard lights are on, and your road flares are set up if you have them. You can even pop your hood.
These are all signs that there’s been an accident to passing drivers. Those drivers, due to the “ rubbernecking” will slow down to get a closer look. Unless you can walk away to a nearby sidewalk, stay in your car to keep warm. If it’s wintertime, hopefully, you have a roadside emergency kit with a blanket in it. Don’t fret, emergency crews are on the way.
Did you know accident claims can raise the price of insurance?
Step 5 (a) – Record the details of the accident
Record the following, in your own words. You can use your phone’s voice recorder or any note-taking app or even send yourself an email of what happened.
- Weather conditions
- Road conditions
- Estimated speed
- Description of the accident
- Draw a diagram of the accident
It’s essential to get these details down in your head while they’re fresh and before talking to others who may influence your statement. Honesty is the best policy.
Here is the government of Ontario’s accident worksheet.
Step 5 (b) – Exchange insurance information (if applicable)
If you are involved in an accident with other drivers you will want to exchange your insurance information, as well as personal contact and vehicle details. Documentation is a key part of the accident process and the better you document the more likely your insurance claim will be successfully processed - assuming you have not committed any criminal acts that caused the incident (i.e. a DUI).
Beyond the obvious reason that it is illegal to drive without proof of insurance, having your pink slip readily available is important for these types of situations. A recent article published by CTV News states that the Police reminding drivers to have their pink slips handy as there have been an increase in the number of drivers failing to produce their pink slips after an accident and this can result in serious consequences. So remember to have either a printed version of your pink slip or a digital version on your phone available at all times when operating your vehicle.
Here is the information you should be collecting from any other drivers involved in the incident:
Step 6 – Call your car insurance company
They are there to help you and they will provide you with the information you need to help you decide if you need to file an accident claim or not. In order to make an accident claim, you must submit a report to your insurer within 7 days - ideally they would prefer it to come within 24 hours. If you don’t, your insurance provider may deny your claim.
What happens after a car accident?
After a car accident, you may require a tow to a collision centre, depending on the state of your vehicle. It's important to have your pink slips handy when you arrive at a collision centre as the police will need to see proof of insurance. If you fail to produce insurance your vehicle could be impounded as you cannot operate a vehicle without insurance and you could face a steep fine of at least $5,000. On top of that, having a ticket for driving without insurance is viewed as a serious offence by insurers and will increase you car insurance for the next 3 to 6 years.
After reporting the incident to the police, it’s another great time to speak with your insurance company. Depending on your Ontario car insurance policy, you may have OPCF27 (a popular car insurance policy endorsement), which provides you with a rental car after an accident while your car is being repaired or replaced. It's important to note that if you have collision insurance and comprehensive insurance coverage on your policy, you can waive the rental car insurance, too.
In Ontario, no-fault insurance means you’ll deal with your own car insurance company for claims and navigating through this process. In fact, while your report and the police report are critical components to assigning fault, your insurance company will have the final say. Know that you can be found partially at fault, in other words, anywhere from 0% to 100% at fault in a collision.
Check out Ontario’s fault determination rules (with diagrams) to get an idea of where you might be on the scale.
Will my insurance go up after a car accident?
If you are found at fault, generally speaking, you can expect your premiums to go up. There are exceptions, however, including if you have accident forgiveness on your policy, which means they essentially ignore a first-time accident. Keep in mind, if this is the case, it goes on your record. If you switch insurance companies, the accident may rear its ugly head and raise your premium, as you will lose your accident forgiveness.
But even if you’re found to be 0% at fault, your premiums might still go up. This could be due to your car insurance company raising rates. This is why it’s essential to compare car insurance quotes and make sure you’re getting the best value.
Are you paying the best price for car insurance?
Beware of fraud after a car accident
The tow truck driving industry has a few bad apples that can spoil the bunch. If your tow truck driver recommends a repair shop without asking, they’re likely breaking a municipal bylaw. What happens is they’ll tow you to their mechanic who inflates the repair charges, and they kick back money to the tow truck driver. This is a case of auto insurance fraud.
How auto insurance fraud happens
A tow truck driver may be paid a referral fee by a vehicle repair or body shop to have damaged vehicles towed there. These types of tow truck drivers are known in the industry as “chasers.” A tow truck driver may be breaking a municipal bylaw by recommending a repair shop without being asked. To recover these referral fees, tow truck drivers and vehicle repair or body shops may “pad” their bills. In the end, you and other policyholders end up paying.
Typically, you don’t care, your insurance is footing the bill. But, by increasing the cost of the repair bill, insurers eventually respond by increasing their insurance rates for all, including your own. Regardless of how happy you are with your provider’s customer service, if your car insurance rate goes up, you might end up switching insurance providers.
Worst case scenario – you lose your car.
Also, be forewarned, if your insurance provider doesn’t “approve” of the repair shop, they may require you to get it towed to a mechanic they know and trust. You could be responsible for paying for the first towing service, storage to leave your car there, and other administrative fees – that’s money out of your pocket. If you refuse to pay them, know there is a “Repair and Storage Liens Act” permitting the mechanic to sell your vehicle to cover their costs.
The bottom line
After an accident, remain calm, breathe, and work with your insurance company. You pay them to help you through this situation. If you’re injured, there are accident benefits to cover medical costs and even lost income. If your car is a write-off, depending on actual cash value (ACV) or replacement cost, you may get a full replacement or at least some money towards buying a new car.
A comprehensive car insurance policy from the top car insurance company will make sure you’re covered. If you're concerned you may not have the right level of coverage, call your insurance company to review your policy. If you don't like what you hear, consider shopping around for a new policy - we make it easy to help you compare the market.
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- How to change car insurance companies
- Actual cash value vs. replacement cost
- Buying a new car? Check out our guide