When to file an insurance claim (and when not to)

According to the Canadian Transportation Safety Board, 160,000 car accidents occur each year. This staggering number of accidents shows us that driving in Canada can be tricky (especially in winter). Car accidents can happen for a variety of reasons despite our best efforts. If you’re in one, you’ll probably need to let your insurer know about it in a timely manner (regardless of who was at fault).

In fact, most car insurance policies stipulate that drivers notify the insurer about every accident regardless of fault or circumstances.

But before you dive into the claims process, use this quick guide to know when to file an insurance claim for your car.


When should I file an insurance claim?

Although some drivers prefer to make personal arrangements with the other party and pay for damages out-of-pocket, this can lead to bigger problems down the road. Use these guidelines for reference:

If you cause minor damage to someone’s car and they offer to settle it privately. You generally want to avoid private deals because there is typically nothing to prove you made the agreement with the other person. If you pay them and it later turns out that the damage was more extensive than what was originally thought, the other party might come back and demand more money or file a claim on their own. That’s going to go on record for your car insurance renewal without you getting any payout from a claim, which is a bad situation to be in.



If you cause a car accident and the extent of the damage is unclear. Although you may not be sure if the costs will exceed your deductible, you definitely want to tell your insurance company if the extent of the damage is not clear. This covers your wallet in case the repair costs are higher than you thought.

If you cause a car accident with injuries. This is another situation where you would absolutely need to inform your insurance company. Medical bills are not something you can pay out-of-pocket, and the police need to be notified too. Hiding accidents with injuries is a bad idea for your health, not just for your insurance rates.

If you cause major damage to another vehicle. You definitely want to let your insurance company know about something like this. This kind of damage can easily turn out to be more expensive than you may have anticipated. Your insurance policy is also there to pay out damages in situations where you couldn’t afford to cover it yourself.


When should I pass on filing a claim?

It’s as important to know when to file an insurance claim as when to avoid it. The most prominent reason drivers are likely to avoid reporting car accidents to their insurance provider is because reporting the accident could raise their premiums. There are also situations where your car can get damaged, but you may not be eligible to receive your claim payment, such as an unregistered but frequent second driver.

Here are a few situations where this may be the case.


If you cause major damage to your own car (but no one else’s)

Unless you have a collision coverage enhancement on your policy,  your insurance company won’t pay for repairing the damage to your car  if you damaged it yourself. However, that doesn’t mean you aren’t supposed to report the accident to your insurance provider and to the police if necessary. This is twice as important if there were other drivers, vehicles or pedestrians involved.  Failing to report an accident could result in a fine or a license suspension.

In the event of an at-fault accident, your insurance company will still pay at least $200,000 to cover the injuries and property damage experienced by others involved. Also, if you’re injured in an accident that you are found to be at fault for, you still may be entitled to accident benefits to help cover your medical bills. If you do have collision coverage, you can expect to receive coverage for vehicle repairs minus your deductible. You may also see your rates go up when your policy is renewed after an at-fault accident.



If you cause minor car damage

For the purpose of this example, let’s say that you accidentally backed into a tree or encountered a nasty pothole. If the damage is negligible and you don’t have collision coverage, there is no need to contact your insurance provider. If you do happen to have collision coverage in that same scenario but the damage cost is lower than your collision deductible, then you can pass on filing a claim.

This changes for collisions involving other cars, animals, or pedestrians, but minor damage to your own car probably means you’re fine. Ask your broker about claims counselling, as you may be able to cancel an auto insurance claim after filing one if you decide it’s not worth it.

At the end of the day, you’ll want to report the majority of any accidents you may experience  to your insurance company, just to be on the safe side. If the damage to any vehicle is extensive or if anyone suffered any injuries, you shouldn’t think twice about when to report it or when to file an insurance claim.. Your policy is there to give you peace of mind when it comes to these things, so that you can be confident on the road knowing that you have a safety net.


Not sure what kind of car insurance you need? Head on over to aha insurance and we’ll get you an accurate quote in 3 minutes (applicable discounts included).

Seriously, what else can you do in 3 minutes?

Boil half an egg?

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