Chances are, if you’ve been driving for a while, you’ve probably been close to or encountered a collision at some point. And, if you’re someone who’s been involved in a car collision, you know that they’re no fun. We all take safety precautions when we’re on the road, like wearing our seatbelts, not driving under the influence, or fatigued, and keeping a safe distance between ourselves and the car ahead of us. We do our very best to keep ourselves and our passengers – as well as others on the road – safe. Still, things can happen, and in the event of a collision, it’s better to know what to do than be left to panic.
Whether it’s a trivial fender-bender in a grocery store parking lot, a hit-and-run, or a serious head-on collision with either car going at 100km/h, it’s important to know what to do in order to manage the situation and stay safe. In this article, we’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions to do with the next steps following a car collision.
Car Collision: What to Do? – Frequently Asked Questions
Is a collision the same as an accident?
A collision is technically a type of car accident, but as far as insurance is concerned, a collision is separate because it involves one or more vehicles colliding with each other or a stationary object. Other accidents can occur, like slipping into a ditch, suffering a flat tire and skidding off a road, or a projectile striking our car, but collisions usually imply that there was property damage as a result of the collision, or someone (a passenger, other driver, or pedestrian) was injured.
A breakdown may constitute an “accident” as well, but usually, when it comes to driving, an accident refers to a collision while operating a motor vehicle where damage was caused, or people were hurt. In any case, the steps you should take following a breakdown or other incident where your car might have been damaged, another party was involved, if property was damaged, or people were hurt are very important.
Some policies include emergency services insurance, which can help if your car breaks down, but the incident wasn’t due to a collision. Emergency services may cover the cost of towing, roadside assistance, tire replacement, and other service expenses to get your car back to functioning after a breakdown.
What is the first step you should take after a collision?
After a collision, the first step is to remain calm and ensure that everyone involved in the collision is safe and call for emergency medical assistance if necessary. Once you have assessed everyone’s safety, you should exchange information with the other driver(s), including names, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance information.
If the total damage is under your regional limit, which is often $2,500, and/or it is deemed a minor accident, you may not require the police to attend the scene. Instead, you’ll need to visit a collision reporting center to report the accident and get the necessary documentation for your insurance claim. It’s crucial to understand what steps to take in different situations to ensure that you’re following the proper protocol and protecting your rights.
In an instance where the collision is severe or someone is seriously injured, you should not leave the scene. If the other party leaves, make sure to write down their licence plate number so that local authorities are able to track them down. If possible, take a video or a picture of their vehicle.
Hit-and-runs are very serious, and anyone who is found guilty of failing to stop at the scene of a collision may face jail time of up to five years (at the very minimum!) and upwards of ten years for an accident where bodily injury was caused. If the accident resulted in a fatality, the at-fault driver who fled the scene may be sentenced to life in prison.
A hit-and-run is a criminal offence. The first thing you should always do after a collision, no matter how trivial or severe you anticipate the accident to have been, stop. Stay calm. If possible, and your car is safe to drive (and you are uninjured), pull over to the shoulder of the road and turn on your hazard lights to warn oncoming traffic.
If you believe that someone was hurt, either in your own vehicle or the participating party’s, call 9-1-1. You will also want to call the police if the damage sustained was probably worth over $2,000. If there are any injuries, be sure to address them at this point. If someone is badly injured, keep them warm and do not move them, unless they are in immediate danger where they are currently located.
Now it’s time to gather information, once you can be sure everyone involved is OK and help is on the way. It’s time to get enough info to file an accident report. Call the police to file your accident report; be sure that you’re aware of how to do so and when to, according to the rules of your municipality.
Broken down into simple steps, here are what you need to do after a collision:
● Stay calm
● Turn on hazard lights
● Check for injuries – both for yourself and other passengers.
● Call 911 if anyone is hurt.
● If your car isn’t damaged beyond being able to safely move, pull aside to a safe spot. Set up flares or traffic cones if you can.
● Contact emergency services, even if the damage appears minor.
● If there’s another vehicle involved, collect necessary info to file a report.
● Take photographs and document.
● Keep any witnesses on hand and get their eye-witness reports of what happened, along with their contact info and consent to be contacted.
● Call your insurer.
What should you never do when involved in a collision?
You should never flee the scene of a collision, even if you anticipate there to be minimal or no damages/injuries. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Another thing you should never do when involved in a collision is to say “sorry.” For many Ontarians, after an accident (even one that wasn’t your fault), apologising may feel very natural. Avoid saying any word of apology, as it can cause the other party involved to take your apology as admission of guilt. Try to also avoid phrases such as, “I’m sorry you’re hurt,” or “I’m sorry you’re late for x.” All of these can be assumed as admitting guilt and responsibility.
Things can get very heated after a collision, especially if there is a lot of damage or one or both parties were seriously inconvenienced. If you want to apologise without admitting guilt, or even if you aren’t in the wrong, try to acknowledge the other person’s feelings in a safe, calm fashion. Do not raise your voice or match their tone if theirs starts to rise. You can express regret over what happened without apologising.
It’s sometimes better to limit discussion altogether when you get into an accident. Sometimes, having a conversation, especially when fingers are being pointed, can result in even worse scenarios. Combine all our daily stress with a high-pressure situation and bad things tend to occur. Keep the discussion short and elaborate later with your insurance company and with the policy.
What are things you must have when an accident happens?
Once it’s made clear that everyone is OK and 9-1-1 or emergency help is on the way, you will need to gather some information. You may want to collect the necessary information to file a police report once the initial few steps have been completed.
Make sure to obtain:
● Gather every driver’s name who was involved in the collision.
● Make sure to include contact information of each driver.
● Obtain all licence plate numbers for each vehicle involved.
● Acquire the name of the insurance company of each party involved, plus their policy number as well.
● Document the types of vehicles involved and their location.
● Be sure to include the names of passengers and witnesses.
You may also want to include documentation of the incident description. Try to take photos, videos, including the damages sustained by both vehicles and any detail that you think is necessary to include, such as the scene of the accident, other driver(s) and passengers, etc.
How does collision work in insurance?
Collision insurance, or collision coverage, is an optional insurance coverage that can be added to the mandatory inclusions that Ontario’s automobile insurance program requires every driver to have. It’s subject to its own deductible and designed to cover collision damage as a result of a crash with another vehicle or an object.
With this optional coverage, your own insurance company would pay to repair/replace your vehicle, no matter who is assigned fault. In most cases, you would be responsible for paying your deductible – i.e., the amount of money you are required to pay, only if you are at fault. You set this specific amount when purchasing coverage. The average deductible ranges between $500 and $1,000, with the highest amount being about $5,000 (depending on your insurance company), and needs to be paid before receiving your claim.
Every policy and insurer is different when it comes to how your insurance is impacted by a collision, but you can expect a single at-fault incident to increase your premiums by about 15% until your costs eventually go back down to normal with time. Unfortunately, if you suffer another at-fault incident before your rates return to normal, you’ll see an increase of about 30%. Accident forgiveness coverage can help prevent these increases.
Your best bet is to stay as safe as you can on the road, practice good driving habits, and avoid unsafe situations where your risk of being involved in a collision is higher.
Is it good to have collision insurance?
Collision coverage comes into play in the event of an accident. If you finance or lease your vehicle, collision insurance may even be mandatory. If your car comes into contact with an object or another vehicle and was damaged, it’s a huge help. It will pay for the cost to repair or replace your vehicle, regardless of who was at-fault.
While benefits for collision coverage may vary, the greatest benefit is that there are no out-of-pocket costs for collision coverage, besides the deductible and potentially a rental car.
If you didn’t have collision coverage and you were at-fault, you would not be covered for the cost of repairs. In addition, with hit-and-runs by unidentified third-parties where you are not at-fault, you may not be covered without collision coverage.
If it was a minor accident, should you still document the damage?
Even in a minor car collision, knowing what to do is important. First of all, never just assume an incident was minor until you have every piece of information. Injuries and damages are very possible with minor incidents. Avoid moving your car if it isn’t driveable or if the location of your vehicle might be evidence of fault.
Also, avoid lying about the severity of the incident. If the police deem the incident to be more serious than you anticipated, then you need to follow protocol rather than just act on assumption. Get all relevant details of the incident. If the damage totalled was less than $2,000 and there are no injuries or signs of illegal activity, you may not need to call the police. You can simply take your car to a local collision reporting centre or, if you’re unsure of the situation’s severity, call the police.
In some circumstances with incidents where less than $2,000 damage was dealt, there still needs to be a report. Those circumstances include:
● If the accident was a result of a crime, such as a stolen vehicle, impaired driving, etc.
● If someone or multiple parties were injured in the incident.
● If either of the vehicle(s) involved are government vehicles.
● If the driver of either vehicle is uninsured or does not have a valid licence.
● If private property was damaged.
● If the accident involved someone not in a vehicle, like a cyclist or pedestrian.
● If either of the vehicle(s) in the incident were transporting dangerous goods.
Again, if you’re not sure, your best course of action is to get in touch with the police to ensure that you can follow everything as per protocol. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Once the incident has been reported, it’s time to call your insurer and get the claims process started.