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Reporting car damage: do I need to tell my insurance company?

Reporting damage to a car isn’t always a clear choice for drivers on the road because it can affect your car insurance rates. If you’ve ever been in an accident, you understand the financial, emotional, and physical costs it can incur. In Ontario, failing to report an accident counts as a major conviction if you’re caught—it’s a serious offense.

What happens if you don’t report a car accident? If the accident caused $2,000 or more of damage in total (all vehicles involved), there’s an injury, or there’s suspicion of impaired driving, then failing to report it will violate the law. That’s worse than higher insurance rates (trust us on this one).

We all know how expensive cars can be. Unless you have a little bump with a pole in a parking lot, chances are good that the repairs are going to cost you more than $1000. If you have an accident on a public road in Ontario and damages meet or exceed $2,000, the law requires you to swap insurance information with the other driver and report it.

 

What if I rear-ended someone but there’s no damage?

Let’s say you have a minor accident in a parking lot with another car. The damage is likely under $1000, and you might not have even been the person driving at the time. There’s a small dent in the passenger mirror that you don’t plan to get repaired because it doesn’t compromise the vehicle. A fender bender fix doesn’t cost much on older cars, but it might take labour-intensive recalibrations on new, high-tech vehicles.

That’s why you should report it.

Legally, in this situation, both drivers have up to two years in which they may still make a claim. So even if you agreed with the other driver that there was only minor damage and maybe you even exchanged some cash (which we strongly discourage), you shouldn’t simply forget about it.

Many insurance companies require that you report car damage and accidents within seven days, even if you’re not sure about filing a claim. If you fail to do this and the other driver decides to make a claim within that two-year period, your insurance company may decide not to pay out if you failed to report it. You don’t want to be in that position if you experience a sore neck after a car accident, or any other kind of injury that insurance could cover.

 

 

The cost of not reporting

Let’s say that you’ve decided not to report the minor accident and you’re living with a little superficial damage to your vehicle. In the case where neither party chooses to report to their insurance company, your rates will not go up (in theory).

That’s a win, right? It might be, but it carries a risk.

If the other party decides a few weeks later that they have an injury as a result of the accident, this is where you’re going to have real problems (especially if you were at fault). Additionally, if your insurance company finds out about an accident that you didn’t report in which you paid for the damages out-of-pocket, your rates may still rise anyway.

An at-fault accident driver is a risk, and insurance companies are going to charge them more for covering that risky behaviour.

When you weigh the short-term gains against the likelihood of long-term losses, the choice becomes pretty clear: the money you save once by not reporting damage to a car probably won’t outweigh the cost of higher rates if (or when) your insurance company finds out about it. They usually find out at your policy renewal time via the car accident report, by the way!

 

Ask us about reporting damage to a car

Insurance companies vary in their policies for reporting accidents and damages. In some cases, a failure to report can result in an insurance company not renewing your policy. Understand your options and go with honesty as always being the best policy.

 


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