Originally published in Premier Magazine May/June 2012
A car accident can be a stressful and terrifying event. It's important that you know what to do, and that you document relevant information at the accident scene, so you can protect your interests going forward. Here is a list of "WHAT TO DO" if you are involved in a car accident. You might want to consider keeping this information in your vehicle for easy reference.
1. STOP!! The law requires you to stop your vehicle at the scene of the accident no matter how minor. Failure to do so can result in prosecution with monetary penalties, demerit points, and in severe circumstances, your driver's license can be suspended and you can be imprisoned.
2. Remain Calm. You need to think rationally.
3. Consider whether to call 911 or attend at the Police Reporting Centre. If anyone is hurt or if a criminal offence is suspected (e.g. impaired driving, stolen vehicle, assault, driving without insurance), call 911 as the police will likely attend at the accident scene. If in doubt, just call 911 or the Police Reporting Centre (London: 519.659.4300) for direction. If there is no Reporting Centre in the accident area, call 911 and the local police will direct you.
- If it is safe to do so, find out if anyone else involved in the accident is injured. Be polite. Do not argue over the accident. You will have an opportunity to explain how the accident happened when filing a report. Do not admit you caused the accident. Do not pay or promise to pay for damage. Do not sign statements regarding fault.
- Do not move any injured persons unless they are in immediate danger and it is safe for you to do so. (*According to the www.police.london.ca website, the police will also attend collisions involving damage to private, municipal or highway property, or collisions involving federal, provincial or municipal vehicles, or vehicles transporting dangerous goods)
4. If no one is injured and no criminal offence is suspected, but if the combined damage to all vehicles exceeds $1,000.00, you must report it to the police. That is the law. If you are unsure about the damage costs, ask the police.
If no one is injured, no criminal offence is suspected, and if the total combined damage to all vehicles is less than $1,000.00, reporting the accident to the Reporting Centre is strongly recommended. You can call the Reporting Centre to review the option of not reporting the accident, but be very careful. Sometimes repairs cost more than anticipated. More importantly however, many injuries do not evidence themselves until afterward. If you do not report the accident, there will be serious insurance coverage issues should you get sued, or if you subsequently want to make your own insurance claim.
5. If you intend to report the accident, you must attend at the Police Reporting Centre within 24 hours. In London, the Police Reporting Centre is located at 1001 Brydges Street, London, Ontario. Hours of operation are 7 am to 11 pm.
At the Reporting Centre, a report will be completed, and they will photograph the damage to the vehicles involved in the accident. Make sure you bring your vehicle ownership documents, your insurance documentation and your driver's license, as well as all of the particulars concerning the accident (detailed below).
6. You must wait for the police if they decide to attend at the accident scene. They will likely want to take statements from everyone involved. If you have concerns about talking to the police, you should call a lawyer.
7. If the police intend to come to the accident scene, do not move the vehicles until after the investigation. However, if there is an imminent risk of a second accident, you should consider moving your car to the side of the road if you can safely do so. If in doubt, just ask the police.
If the accident prevents you from safely driving your car, put on your hazard lights, and put out warning triangles or cones to signal to approaching vehicles the presence of a stopped vehicle and the fact that there has been an accident.
8. Get the following Information:
A) Record the names, addresses, home and business telephone numbers, driver's license numbers of all other drivers involved. Record the license plate numbers of all other cars involved, as well as the registered owners of those vehicles, the colour, type and model of the vehicles, and the insurance information for each of the other vehicles, including the insurance policy number, the expiry date of the policy and the name and telephone number of the insurer. Provide the other drivers with your information.
B) Obtain the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all passengers and all witnesses. Independent witnesses tend to leave so ask for their particulars quickly.
C) Write down the name, badge number, division and telephone number of the officer if one attends.
D) Consider making a diagram showing the scene of the accident, the position and the orientation of each car involved in the accident. Jot down the location, time of the accident, the weather conditions, road conditions, the estimated speed of vehicles, the damage to the vehicles that you observed and your description of the accident. Keep this document.
9. If you have your car towed, write down the company's name, telephone number, the driver's name, the truck's license plate number, and the address to which your car is being towed. During the Police Reporting Centre's business hours (London: 7 am to 11 pm), all towed vehicles must go directly to the Reporting Centre from the scene of the collision.
Be careful of tow truck drivers pressuring you to have your vehicle towed, demanding cash, or attempting to take your vehicle to a garage or body shop of their choice. If you feel pressured, ask the police for names of reputable tow truck companies and call one. If the Reporting Centre is closed, have your car towed to the tow truck company's compound or somewhere you are comfortable with, but realize that your car will have to be towed to the Reporting Centre the next morning.
10. If you have an injury, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Do not wait. You should also consider talking to a lawyer so that you have a good understanding of the legal options that are available to you.
11. Take photos of your injuries and the damage to your vehicle. If there was something unusual or of a temporary nature regarding the accident site, take photos if it is safe and appropriate to do so. Develop the photos to ensure they will be of good use.
12. Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. If you are injured, you should inform your insurer about the accident within seven days or if you are seriously injured, as soon as you are fit to do so. The insurer will send you the forms to file an insurance claim. The insurer may wish to take a statement or interview you. Strongly consider speaking with a lawyer before agreeing to do so.
13. Maintain perspective Try not to blame yourself or dwell on the accident. If you or a loved one is injured, you need to focus on the recovery process. If you are not injured, then complete all of your accident related tasks in a timely fashion, so that you can get back to your regular life. Try to remember that accidents happen all the time and yes, even to the best of us.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.