You’ve been injured in a car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, and you may be at a loss regarding what to do first, how best to protect your rights, and when to report an accident. While every accident involves unique circumstances, there are, fortunately, some basic rules that can help you know what to do after a car accident in Ontario. If this is the challenging situation you find yourself in, the skilled legal guidance of an experienced Hamilton personal injury lawyer can help significantly.
First Things First
To begin, it’s critical to understand that if you are seriously injured in a serious car accident, your health and well-being should be your primary concern. The first order of business is seeking the medical attention that you need. A crash of this magnitude will automatically generate Ontario accident reporting, and your knowledgeable personal injury lawyer will ensure that anything else you need to do – including filing your car accident claim – will be taken care of. When it comes to serious car accidents, it’s important to address first things first by seeking medical care and then reaching out for the professional legal counsel of a trusted personal injury lawyer.
Do You Have to Report an Accident in Ontario?
There are specific legal requirements in place when it comes to reporting car accidents in Ontario. What are the accident reporting rules in Ontario? Good question; they include all the following:
- The most important requirement is stopping at the scene of the accident. This is all the more important if someone is injured.
- You’re required to call the police if someone’s been injured or if the accident caused more than $2,000 in property damage, which isn’t difficult to reach in terms of body damage to a vehicle.
- From here, the police operator will provide you with instructions regarding anything you need to do while awaiting their arrival.
Other instances when you should call the authorities from the scene of a car accident include:
- A pedestrian was struck.
- You suspect the other driver of being impaired.
- The owner of the property that was damaged is not present.
- A government vehicle was involved in the accident.
- The other driver doesn’t have proof of insurance.
Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act guides how traffic accidents are handled, and it’s important to note that even if none of the above apply, there are still accident reporting rules with which you must comply.
Which Number to Call?
You shouldn’t call 911 unless the car accident represents an actual emergency. This can mean any of the following:
- A very serious accident that is a danger to other drivers on the road
- An accident in which you believe someone was seriously injured
- An accident in which you can’t rule out serious injuries
- An accident in which the other driver leaves you injured and leaves the scene
- An accident in which the other driver becomes aggressive toward you
- An accident that leads to fire
If you believe the situation constitutes an emergency, call 911. For most garden variety car accidents, calling the number of the local police and letting the operator know what happened is the right course of action. The operator will instruct you regarding the next steps.
What Are the Accident Reporting Rules in Ontario?
If the accident in question doesn’t require calling the police from the scene, it doesn’t mean that your reporting obligations have ended. How long do you have to report an accident? In these situations, you have 24 hours from the time of the collision to contact a collision reporting centre, to make a written report of the crash, and to have photos of the collision damage to your car taken.
Following these rules is not only the law but also helps to protect you in the following ways:
- The report can protect you from false reporting on the part of the other driver.
- The report officially documents that an accident occurred at a particular time and date and at a particular location, which can help protect you against a coverage refusal on the part of the involved insurance company – based on a lack of evidence.
If you’re not sure whether or not the accident warrants a call to the police, it’s best to err on the side of caution by making the call. There is no penalty for being overly cautious, and the operator on the line will help gauge whether or not the police need to be sent out.
Can I Report an Accident after 24 Hours in Ontario?
While the rule is 24 hours, you shouldn’t forego reporting an accident to a collision reporting centre simply because you’ve missed the deadline. Failure to timely report can lead to negative consequences, but reporting a bit outside the required time frame is better than not reporting an accident at all.
What to Do After a Minor Car Accident in Ontario
As mentioned, you have obligations after a minor car accident in Ontario, and they include the following:
- Stop at the scene by pulling over somewhere that it’s safe to do so.
- Check to make sure that no one’s injured – even minor-seeming accidents can lead to injuries.
- Call the local police if there is estimated damage of at least $2,000 or if you discover that someone’s been injured.
- If the police weren’t involved, contact a collision reporting centre, make your written statement, and have the damage to your vehicle photographed.
You’ll also need to exchange contact information with the other driver, which includes all the following:
- Your driver’s licence numbers
- Your names and contact information
- The year, make, and model of your cars, along with their plate numbers
- The name of your insurance providers, along with your policy numbers
Reporting the Accident to Your Car Insurance Provider
In addition to reporting the car accident to the authorities or a collision reporting centre, it’s important to also report the matter to your car insurance provider within 24 hours. Under the terms of car insurance policies, owners are required to notify their providers whenever an insured vehicle is involved in an accident. This includes accidents in which your car is hit in a parking lot or is hit when it’s parked on the street. Failure to do so could result in your insurance company denying coverage for the claim you file and even cancelling your policy for your failure to comply with their terms.
What Happens if You Don’t Report a Car Accident in Ontario?
Failing to report a car accident can lead to serious financial and legal consequences. Consider all the following:
- If you fail to report the accident, the at-fault driver may do so and may claim a personal injury, which could lead to your insurance provider refusing to cover the claim.
- When only one driver reports an accident that involved two drivers, it can lead to charges of leaving the scene of an accident for the driver who doesn’t report.
- Choosing to address the damages between yourselves – based on the other driver’s assurances about covering your losses – can seriously backfire, leaving you with no recourse.
It’s also important to note that even a relatively minor accident can lead to significant health concerns, which may not be symptomatic for a few hours or even a few days. Failing to report the accident within the 24-hour requirement can jeopardize your ability to recover compensation for your losses through your car insurance provider.
Protecting Your Claim
Once you’ve covered the legal basics and have addressed the matter of your health and well-being, there are some important points to keep in mind in relation to protecting your claim. These include not voicing your opinion about what caused the accident at the scene, not reflexively apologizing at the scene, and not posting about the accident on social media. The bottom line is that the facts and evidence involved – under the guidance of your seasoned personal injury lawyer – will determine the outcome of your case, but the involved insurance company will be all too eager to twist your statements in an effort to diminish your claim.
Steps you can take to proactively help your claim – if you’re able – include all the following:
- Writing a brief description of what happened during the course of the accident – while the matter is still fresh in your thoughts
- Recording the names, contact information, and testimony of any eyewitnesses at the scene
- Snapping photos of the damage to both cars, of how the cars landed in relation to one another, and of any other relevant details
It’s Time to Consult with an Experienced Ontario Personal Injury Lawyer
If another driver leaves you injured in a car accident, Derek Wilson at Derek Wilson Law is a practiced Ontario personal injury lawyer who has the experience, legal skill, and insight to help guide your claim toward its most favourable resolution. Your claim is important, so please don’t wait to contact or call us at 905-769-0418 for more information today.