How to dial a claim in Ontario: your in-depth guide
Car insurance in Ontario can be a confusing experience at first, and we don’t always have the time to figure it out when we need to dial a claim on the side of the road. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you get through the process with everything you need to know.
We’ll even tell you how to get the most out of your claim before calling your insurance company. Because we’re awesome.
How insurance claims work in Ontario
Ontario’s insurance system works a little bit differently than in other parts of Canada, depending on the issue. We’ll cover how the claims process works, what you can expect throughout the process, and how to make the most of the situation as you go through it.
What is an auto insurance claim?
An auto insurance claim needs to be made if you’re involved in a car accident in which injuries or property damage has occurred. You dial a claim with your insurance company to inform them about the details of an accident, so they can work on investigating and processing the benefits you’re entitled to. Once you make a claim, a representative from your insurance company will be your main point of contact through the whole claim process.
By filing a claim with your insurance company, they will determine what damages and injuries are compensated for through your insurance company, out of pocket, or the other drivers insurance. This is determined by who is at fault for the collision.
It’s always important to file an auto insurance claim in the event of a collision to avoid any unforeseeable consequences and to maintain your insurance coverage.
What to expect when you dial a claim
Filing an insurance claim can seem like a daunting task, but rest assured, your insurance company/ broker will make sure the appropriate steps are taken throughout the claim process in a simple and stress free manner.
You’ll want to file an insurance claim within seven days of the accident. Information they will be looking for will be similar to what was filed through your police report at the collision reporting centre. Learning how to report a car accident to your insurance company is not something anybody looks forward to but if you keep reading you’ll have everything you need to know to go through the process with ease.
If you’re thinking of not reporting a car accident to your insurance company consider that you could face serious penalties for not doing so. Always stay at the scene of an accident and exchange insurance information with the other drivers involved to avoid police charges and potential fraudulent insurance claims being made against you. Reporting an accident right away helps insurance companies and law enforcement get the facts right away, and begins the process of repairing any damage.
Is it possible to dial a claim online?
Whether or not you can make an online claim depends on your insurance provider. Contact yours or visit their website for details. An online claim will still need the same information as a traditional insurance claim. This includes:
- What happened and the damage to your car.
- Information about any other drivers involved.
- A damage estimate.
It’s usually possible to cancel a claim after you’ve started one, but remember that certain insurers might still factor an at-fault accident into future rates if they’ve gotten far enough into the claims process before you withdraw.
What you need to dial a claim
By collecting the right information and considering the factors listed below the insurance claim process can be stress free. The Ontario Insurance Council recommends you gather:
- Insurance information from all the drivers involved, including insurance company name and policy numbers (If a driver does not own the car they were driving, you need the car owner’s insurance details.).
- Names and license numbers from all the drivers involved.
- Identification information from the other vehicles (license plate number, registration, make, model and year).
- The location, time and date of where the accident occurred.
- Details about any injuries that occurred.
- How many passengers were involved.
- Details about the damage to vehicles involved.
- A statement describing the accident in your own words.
- If you need to report to the police, the investigating officer’s name and badge number.
You can read about the nuances of reporting accidents to your insurance company when you dial a claim, in case you’re still not certain if you should.
Find your insurance policy number
The first step to the insurance claim process is to find your insurance policy number. An insurance policy number has 8-10 digits, and is used by your insurance company to identify your account. It’s normally found on your insurance slip, but it is also noted on bills and statements. If you’re an aha insurance customer, you can also find your insurance policy number by logging into myaccount.
If you’re not sure where it is, check these common places:
- Hidden sleeves in your wallet (we’ve done this to ourselves before!)
- The glove compartment
- The compartments on the inside of the driver and passenger doors
- Insurance card sleeves in your car owner’s manual (probably in your glove compartment as well)
- The armrest compartment
- The small compartment under the radio, cigarette lighter, and audio jack
- The sleeves on the back of the two front seats
Remember to grab everything else you need from the other driver before leaving the scene, even if you can’t find your insurance number right then and there. That information is crucial to dial a claim successfully.
Clarify your accident benefits
Accident benefits are the part of an insurance policy that help give you compensation if you’re injured in an auto accident, whether that be physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Accident benefits can include coverage including income replacement, medical expenses, rehabilitation programs, attendant care services; and funeral or death expenses. You should become familiar with the amount of accident benefit coverage you have, in case you decide you’d like to have higher coverage limits to fit your circumstances. You can have a conversation with your broker about how you can customize your accident benefits to fit your lifestyle.
In order to receive accident benefits, first you need to report your injuries to your insurance company within 7 days of the accident itself, not 7 days from whenever you dial a claim. Your insurance company will then send you a form to fill out and request a Disability Certificate to complete the process. Disability Certificates are given out by medical professionals who have examined your well being.
Find out if your passenger has car insurance
Passengers who are injured in a car accident are almost always covered by insurance. As a driver it is important to find out if your passenger has car insurance because it will determine whether or not they will file an insurance claim through their own insurance or through yours.
You can also assure your passenger that filing a claim through their own insurance will not affect their insurance rates because they are not at fault for the collision. The cost and affect on insurance will depend on who was at fault for the accident. As a driver or passenger, you can find more information about what your policy covers in regards to passenger car insurance in your policy under passenger auto accident benefits.
Obtain and complete a police report to dial a claim
When completing a police report for your insurance claim you’ll want to find the closest collision reporting centre and fill out a car damage report form and a collision report form.
You should bring your vehicle to fill out a police report for an insurance claim, have it towed if it’s not fit to drive. An officer will be able to inspect it for damage. Make sure you also provide all of your contact, driver’s license, registration, and insurance information as well as the information you have from the other drivers involved.
You need to collect the following information from the other driver(s) who were part of the accident:
- Full name
- Contact information
- Driver’s license
- License plate numbers
- Vehicle make and model
- Auto insurance provider and policy number
It’s also very helpful to take photos of the accident scene and damage, and to gather witnesses’ contact information and statements about what they saw happen when you dial a claim. Give this information to the officer in charge of handling your police report as well.
Here is an accident worksheet that has all the information to file a police report for an insurance claim that you would need in the case of an accident.
Reporting an accident in Ontario
When an accident occurs, the first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you and the other people involved in the accident aren’t injured. If someone is seriously injured or the damages are over $2,000, you’ll want to call 911 immediately.
If nobody is seriously injured and the total damages to both vehicles are under $2,000, then you’ll want to call the closest collision reporting center to report an accident in Ontario.
When it is safe to do so, get out of your car and take pictures of the vehicle damages and scene of the accident. Next, you’ll want to move your car to the side of the road where it is safe. If your vehicle is undrivable than turn on your hazard lights until authorities arrive.
Use the worksheet given above to list all information needed to report the accident at an Ontario collision centre.
As soon as you can get in contact with your insurance company to let them know what happened and to discuss next steps.
Accident report phone numbers in Ontario
If a collision has occurred the first number you want to call depends on the severity of the accident. If someone is injured or the total damage of the accident adds up to $2,000 call 911 to have authorities come to help assess everyone involved and the damages from the collision.
If everyone is okay and the damages are minor (less that $2,000) you’ll want to contact the nearest collision centre within 24 hours of the accident.
We’ve collected Ontario’s major collision reporting centres here with direct links to their locations in Google Maps:
- Hamilton East
- Hamilton Central
- Hamilton Mountain
- Mississauga: 11 Division
- Mississauga: 12 Division
- North Bay
- Sudbury (this one’s a little far north-west)
- Thunder Bay
- York Region
You can also search for the nearest reporting centre here if you don’t live in those areas.
The next number you’ll want to call belongs to your car insurance provider. You’ll want to dial a claim with your insurer as possible to make sure your insurance company is aware of the situation and can give you the appropriate next steps specific to the collision.
Claim centre vs. reporting centre
‘Claim Centre’ is a bit of a misleading term due to the fact that a claim centre isn’t an actual place you can visit. You’ll need to call the same 1-800 number to file a claim with your insurance company.
Another confusing thing about the term claim centre is that it could possibly get confused with collision reporting centres. Collision reporting centres are physical places run by the police to file a police report about a collision. In the event of an accident you will want to get in contact with the closest collision reporting centre in your area as soon as possible.
How long do I have to report a car accident to the police?
Being in a collision is overwhelming, no doubt about it. While you should always report an accident to your insurance company, you don’t always have to report minor accidents to the police. You need to report a collision if any of the following:
- An injury occurred.
- Someone involved in the accident was breaking the law (involving a driving conviction).
- One of the drivers doesn’t have insurance coverage.
- There was damage to property other than the cars involved.
- The damage to the vehicles involved adds up to more than $2,000 CAD.
- A pedestrian or government vehicle was involved.
If the accident meets at least one of of the above criteria, you are obligated to file a report at a Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours of the accident. If you don’t report such an accident and leave the scene, you could be charged with fines up to $2,000, jail time, or a two-year license suspension.
There’s always potential for injuries to be reported weeks or months after an accident, if you or another person involved needs to make an injury claim, everyone will be better protected if the accident has been reported right after it occurred, this is why you should always report an accident to your insurance company, even if it isn’t necessary to report it to the police.
Insurance fault determination in Ontario
Because of the term “no fault,” people sometimes think no-fault insurance means that insurance companies don’t investigate who’s responsible for an accident, or that being at fault in an accident doesn’t increase a driver’s insurance premiums.
That’s not the case. In reality, Ontario’s system allows every driver involved in a collision to dial a claim that can be handled by their own insurance company without having to deal with the other driver’s insurance provider.
Even though it’s called no-fault insurance in Ontario, insurance companies will still investigate the circumstances of a collision to determine fault, or to what extent each driver involved is responsible. Insurers use the province’s Fault Determination Rules, which are a part of the province’s Insurance Act.
Insurance companies will match accident reports to one of the many scenarios described in the Fault Determination Rules. A driver involved in an accident can be found between 0% and 100% responsible. In some cases fault will be divided among drivers. For example Driver ‘A’ could be found 75% responsible, and Driver ‘B’ could be found 25% responsible. If you’re found to be partially responsible for an accident, your insurance premiums could be increased accordingly, and you will likely have to pay a collision deductible.
What counts as not-at-fault for your Ontario insurance?
There are three main types of coverage that make up policies under Ontario’s system of no-fault accident insurance:
- Statutory accident benefits coverage
- Direct compensation property damage coverage (DC-PD)
- Third-party liability coverage
Statutory accident benefits coverage provides you benefits regardless of who is found to be at fault, as a part of the bare essentials for all drivers on the road. Keep this in mind as you dial a claim with your insurer.
On the other hand, Direct compensation property damage coverage only compensates you for damage to the extent that other drivers involved in the accident are found to be at fault. Third-party liability coverage pays for compensation to other people involved in an accident to the extent that the owner of the insurance policy is found at fault.
If you qualify for the full benefits of a not-at-fault accident claim, you will receive your statutory accident benefits plus direct compensation property damage coverage. Your third-party liability coverage won’t have to make a payout to anyone, which should prevent your premiums from going up.
Ontario’s no-fault insurance system requires insurance companies to determine fault by referencing the Ontario government’s Fault Determination Rules.
These scenarios don’t take into consideration factors such as weather conditions or negligent driving. Negligent driving is investigated in tort claims, which relate to compensation received through third-party liability coverage (often covering related costs such as loss of wages after an accident).
How at-fault accidents affect you
If you’re involved in an at-fault car accident with insurance coverage and determined to be more than 50% at fault, it’s likely that your insurance rates will increase when your policy renews.
It’s also possible that your premiums could be adjusted if you’re found to be more than 25% at fault for an accident, but not always. You’re rates may also be impacted If an investigation into the at fault accident caused you to receive a ticket for a traffic violation, or if you make a claim after the accident.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help reduce the impact of an at-fault accident on your insurance both before and after you dial a claim for an at-fault accident.
- Consider purchasing accident forgiveness coverage to prevent your rates from rising.
- Never admit fault or apologize to the other driver (for legal reasons).
- Consider taking a defensive driving course to lower your rates.
- Invest in vehicles with strong safety features, and have winter tires installed.
I had an at-fault car accident but no insurance. What now?
Having insurance for your vehicle is required by law in Ontario. It might seem unfair, but these laws exist in Ontario to help protect everyone on the road in the case of vehicular damage or personal injury.
Purchasing insurance isn’t necessarily the most fun part of owning a car (it’s OK, we know!), but you’ll feel more confident and safe on the road knowing that your insurance company will help cover the damage of an at-fault accident.
You may need high-risk car insurance if you’ve been charged for driving without insurance before. Not all insurance companies carry high-risk policies, though. This kind of policy is meant to give drivers with not-so-great records a chance to get behind the wheel again.
If you need high-risk insurance as a result of an at-fault accident, you may need high-risk coverage for 6 or more years depending on the severity of the accident. The good news is that if you’ve been able to improve your driving record in that time period, you’ll be able to qualify for regular insurance again.
Top reasons you can be denied after you dial a claim
According to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, there are several cases in which your insurance company can deny benefits when you dial a claim, including income replacement and other forms of compensation.
- A driver did not have valid insurance.
- A driver was driving without a valid driver’s license.
- A driver was excluded by a vehicle owner’s insurance policy from driving the vehicle.
- A driver or their passengers were aware or should have been aware that they did not have the owner’s consent to drive the vehicle.
- A driver was convicted of committing a criminal offense during the incident, even if the offense did not contribute to the accident or relate to operating a vehicle.
- The driver obtained their insurance coverage under false or misleading pretenses, or knew that the vehicles insurance coverage was made under false or misleading pretenses.
If any of the above circumstances are proven to have occurred at the time of your accident, your insurance company is legally allowed to deny your Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS).
If law enforcement does find you guilty of a criminal offence at the time of an accident, it’s possible that your insurer will either refuse to sell you insurance. or raise your premiums because they consider you a high-risk customer.
How to dispute insurance claims of fault
If you disagree with the fault determination decision of your insurer, you can take steps to dispute the insurance claim.
If you’re unable to settle a dispute with your insurer’s customer representatives, you should get the assistance of the company’s internal ombudsperson, liaison officer, or Consumer Complaint Officer. All Ontario insurance providers are required to have one so that you can have your disputes processed in an unbiased way.
FSCO compiles a list of Consumer Complaint Officers for all Ontario insurance companies for this exact situation. That Consumer Complaint Officer will settle review everything and is required to give you a formal letter that outlines the company’s final decision. The complaint officer will also give you the contact information for an independent ombudsman organization that is able to investigate the details of your complaint if you’re still interested in disputing your insurer’s decision.
If you’re hurt in a car accident and your insurance company denies your benefits you feel you’re owed when you dial a claim, you can also contact the Automobile Accident Benefits Service (AABS) to apply for a resolution.
Types of damage where you can dial a claim
The mandatory minimum coverage for liability car insurance in Ontario doesn’t cover everything, and you have the option to buy coverage for those possibilities.
To cover damage to your car from other hazards including hail, sideswipes, potholes, towing and windshield damage, you’ll need comprehensive coverage that includes auto physical damage insurance. It’s a broad category that offers vehicle protection for specified perils such as:
- Other specific weather events
When you make a claim for any type of damage to your vehicle, you will need to fill out a detailed car damage report form that your insurance company will use to assess the compensation you’ll receive to make any repairs or replacements that are necessary to get your car back into top shape.
Hail damage to your car
Does auto insurance cover hail damage? Most policies don’t, but you can buy that coverage as part of a comprehensive coverage plan. In general, basic liability insurance won’t cover damage to your car in the event of hail damage. You need comprehensive coverage to dial a claim for hail damage.
The main concern regarding hail-damaged vehicles is that hail can attack your vehicle from multiple angles and leave all of the exposed areas of your car vulnerable to costly damage. If a hail storm is severe enough, you could end up with multiple dents in the body of your car. Your vehicle could also potentially suffer from windshield or side window damage, depending on the angle at which the hail has struck your car.
Hail damage is covered by most types of comprehensive auto physical damage insurance, but it’s extremely important that you make sure you’re covered for storm and hail damage before it’s exposed to any weather hazards.
Repairing the glass and body damage on hail-damaged vehicles can be surprisingly costly—sometimes as high as $100 per dent removed. If a hail storm were to cause only cosmetic damage to your ride, it wouldn’t necessarily need to be fixed (although it would look ugly).
If the cost to repair hail-damaged vehicles is more than a vehicle is worth, your insurance company will only payout the current value of your car.
Side swipe car damage
Side swipe car damage can be relatively minor, which can cause people to sit on the fence about filing a claim. If the side of your car was damaged in a collision with another vehicle, you will need to report it to your insurance company anyway as soon as possible.
If you sideswiped an object like a light pole, mailbox, or a tree, then you might only be covered by your insurance if you have collision coverage. In the case of a collision with an inanimate object, then the cost of the repair and the cost of your deductible will be important factors to consider.
The good news is that most side swipe damage doesn’t affect your vehicle’s structural integrity, making most repairs relatively minor.
Windshield damage and insurance coverage
Windshield damage is often covered under comprehensive insurance packages. If you have comprehensive coverage and something hits your windshield while you’re driving, resulting in damage that can be repaired without a full windshield replacement, it’s possible that your insurance company will waive your deductible payment when you dial a claim.
If your windshield is cracked or chipped, but still repairable, your insurance company will likely pay for a repair over a complete replacement.
Collision damage and insurance
Unlike liability insurance, which helps cover damage to other drivers’ vehicles and property, you’re not legally required to have collision damage insurance. However, it’s extremely important to help pay for vehicle repairs and even replacements if accidents lead to vehicle write-offs.
Collision damage insurance coverage will vary among insurance providers, so make sure you have the coverage you think you’ll need most. In general, collision damage insurance covers not only collisions with other cars, but also single vehicle accidents which could include a car colliding with objects on or near the road like potholes, trees or fences, and situations where a vehicle rolls over or veers off the road.
As valuable as collision coverage is, you’ll still need comprehensive or all-perils coverage if you want protection from non-collision damage like theft, vandalism, or a tree falling on your car when you dial a claim.
Can towing damage a car?
While towing damage is unlikely if you hire a reputable towing service to do the job, it’s still possible. It’s helpful if you review the towing instructions for your specific vehicle before it needs to be towed. Take a quick look in the owner’s manual while the truck is on its way and relay that information to the tow truck driver upon arrival, just to be safe.
Specific towing recommendations will include:
- Do not tow automatic transmission vehicles over long distances with wheels on the ground.
- Never tow two-wheel drive vehicles with the main two wheels on the ground.
- Do not put the vehicle in park or engage the handbrake before or during a tow. Put it in neutral instead.
In general, your car should be in neutral when it is being towed with two wheels on the ground, but flatbed towing is considered a much safer way to tow your car without causing damage and is the modern towing industry norm.
If you have special towing coverage that pays for towing services when you need them, you should know that it won’t apply if your car is towed involuntarily. However, if a towing company contracted by municipal law enforcement damaged your car, then you might be able to work with your claims advisor to win compensation from the city.
An auto garage damaged my car. Can I dial a claim?
If an auto garage damaged your car you will only be covered by your insurance if you have either comprehensive or all-perils coverage. It’s also possible (but not guaranteed) that if your car was damaged as a result of an accident at the garage, that the garage has insurance to cover repairs to your vehicle. In one of those cases you should receive full coverage for the damage if you dial a claim.
If you’re covered under the garage’s insurance and you also made a claim to your insurance company, you should be reimbursed for your deductible as well. The garage’s insurance would reimburse your insurance company, which would help prevent your premiums from rising as a result of your claim.
If the garage doesn’t have insurance to cover the damage but you do, you should still collect as much evidence about the damage as you can, and see if you can get the garage to give evidence in writing of the damage that occurred. In a less ideal situation where your insurance doesn’t cover garage damage and the garage refuses to reimburse you for the damage or take responsibility, you could consider legal action in small claims court and contact a legal professional.
Can I dial a claim for pothole damage?
If you have collision coverage, you will probably be covered with pothole damage insurance. Since it typically covers hitting a wide manner of objects or obstructions on the road, collision coverage typically will cover your vehicle hitting a pothole on the road.
However, you should still think about if it’s worth making a claim. It’s possible the damage to your car could be less than the cost of your deductible and you will also need to gather information and take photos to backup your claim.
In addition to making an insurance claim, you can also make a claim against the city or province responsible for maintaining the road your car was damaged on. Insurance companies usually will respond much faster, but if you make a claim to the municipal or provincial body that has jurisdiction over the road, your insurance company could be reimbursed for the damage.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is responsible for maintaining major highways including those that belong to the 400 series. You can find instructions and forms for filing a pothole damage claim against the MTO on its website.
If driving over a pothole damages your car on Toronto city streets, you can make a city of Toronto pothole damage claim. You will need to prove that the city failed to meet minimum maintenance requirements and that the city should have been aware of the pothole.
Making a claim after an accident or damage to your vehicle can be daunting. We hope you found this resource useful in helping guide you through the auto insurance claims process. If you have any questions about auto or home insurance coverage you can always contact aha insurance or one of our brokers.
We’re always happy to help!
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