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, I know you’re likely Canadian. Not saying sorry, however, could be the smartest thing you can do financially, despite it being completely against our culture.
Take a deep breath, remain calm, focus on the details, and tell your story to the police. Make no promises; do not admit fault.
We’ll get to that, to begin 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. Call an Ontario collision reporting centre at 416-745-3301. You can also find an Ontario location by clicking here.
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.
Step 5 – 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 6 – Call your car insurance company
They are there to help you. Whether you choose to file a claim or not is still up to you, unless you don’t have coverage. You must submit a report within 7 days, ideally 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 another great time to speak with your insurance company. Depending on your Ontario car insurance policy, you likely have OPCF27, which covers your rental car after an accident. If you have collision and comprehensive, 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.
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 and make sure you’re getting the best value.
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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 ACV or replacement cost, you may get a full replacement or at least some money towards buying a new car. The best insurance policy from the best car insurance company will make sure you’re covered. So, call your insurance company, talk to them, if you’re unhappy – get some new car insurance quotes and switch it up.
- Car accident insurance fraud
- How to avoid paying car rental insurance
- How to change car insurance companies
- Actual cash value vs. replacement cost
- Buying a new car? Check out our guide