There are a couple of things that you need to be aware of, when it comes to motor vehicle accidents and fault. It’s important that you consider these so that, if you are ever in an accident that you think you caused, you do the right thing.
Fleeing the scene will subject you to criminal prosecution. If the damage is significant, you’ll need the police and tow vehicles, but if the vehicles are driveable and there aren’t any immediately obvious injuries, you should pull over to where it is safe, out of traffic.
It’s important to assess the level of damage or injuries, to decide whether police will need to attend the scene, as well as to collect vital information: The name and address of the other driver(s), insurance information, vehicle information (make / model), driver’s license information, etc. More on that later…
Don’t Admit Fault
This is going to sound a little heartless, particularly if you’re sure you caused the accident, but it’s for your own good: Don’t admit fault. It’s normal for many people, after an accident and when the adrenaline is pumping, to feel guilty and want to say something soothing to the other party. Your best action, however, is to hold back on running up to them and admitting that the whole thing was your fault.
Why? First off, you might be wrong.
Fault determination rules in Ontario are complex enough that you might not be aware of your actual degree of fault. For example, you might only be 50% at fault. That might seem trite, but if you end up being sued over the accident, it’s not an inconsequential difference. Also, admitting fault will be something that could be held against you in a lawsuit. All in all, it’s best to stick to the facts of a situation, make sure everyone is safe, and not let emotion get involved.
Another aspect of this is to avoid talking about your accident on social media. This is yet another way for insurance companies to conduct informal surveillance, and if there is some question as to fault in your case, you could end up handing over the evidence the other side is looking for, without even realizing it.
Report The Accident
If there were no immediately obvious serious injuries that would necessitate the involvement of police at the scene, you might be tempted not to report the accident at all, whether to the police at a collision reporting centre or to your insurance company.
In Ontario, you must report an accident to a collision reporting centre within 24 hours. Failure to do that can leave you with a fine of up to $2,000.00, license suspension or even jail time.
You should also consider the possibility that, while you might have agreed with the other driver not to report the fender bender, they might go ahead and do so anyway, either with their insurance company, with the police, or both.
If the other party reports the claim to their insurance company, assuming you swapped information, your company will be notified of the accident. Your insurance company could deny coverage for a claim if you don’t report it yourself within seven days, and could even cancel your policy. You are required to report ALL accidents, whether or not you intend to file a claim to get your vehicle repaired.
If the other party eventually files a police report, you could be charged with failing to remain at the scene of an accident or failing to report a collision. Also, some injuries only become evident after after the fact, like a concussion or soft tissue injury. If you don’t report the accident within seven days, you might find yourself with little recourse, even under Ontario’s no-fault style insurance, where your company covers your costs.
Also, if any of these apply, you need the police at the scene of the accident:
- Vehicle damage in excess of $2K
- As noted above, injuries in any of the involved vehicles
- If you were driving a government vehicle at the time (or the other person was)
- If the other driver has no insurance
- If you or someone else suspects that a driver was impaired in some way (drugs, alcohol)
- If a pedestrian was involved in the accident
- If property was damaged, like a car running up on to a yard and hitting a fence
Get Checked Out By A Medical Professional
Whether or not you;re at fault, it’s worth getting checked out to establish those early medical documents, in case it turns out that you are more injured than you originally thought. The shock of the accident can result in delays in realizing that you are in fact injured.
Talk To A Lawyer
Even if you think you’re at fault, it’s not always cut and dry. If the accident is serious and you could be sued, it’s worth knowing where you stand long before that happens. There could be a situation where the other party did something in the course of operating their vehicle that would make them at least partially negligent in the accident. It’s best to speak with a professional to get a clear understanding of where you stand and what your risks are.