After being involved in an accident, odds are that your mind is probably racing. How severe was the accident? Are they mad at me? And, the most popular question of all, “what do I do now?” Do you call your insurer? Or do you have the damages fixed yourself? You don’t want your insurance rates to go up, but you are also hesitant to go through the repairs process yourself and have to pay out-of-pocket. Ultimately, whether you choose to go through your car insurance or not for the repairs to your vehicle comes down to a few factors.
Understanding when and when not to go through car insurance may be beneficial overall to your savings, your confidence, and the trust between you and your insurer. Read on for some answers to the questions most commonly asked about when and when not to go through car insurance after an unexpected loss.
When to Go Through Car Insurance? – Frequently Asked Questions
How long do you have to report an accident to insurance in Ontario?
If an accident has occurred, you have a limited period of time to file an accident report. This limited period helps to prevent insurance fraud, i.e., from having policyholders make reports alleging damages that occurred due to events unrelated to the reported accident. Having a limited period of time may also allow you to receive your settlement quickly, rather than it being delayed as a result of you prolonging filing your accident report.
After an accident has occurred, you are required to file the report with your broker or insurance company within 7 days of the accident. We advise you to do so as quickly as possible, since failing to report the incident within a reasonable amount of time could result in your claim being denied. No one wants to end up in that situation.
When you report the accident to insurance, you will likely be asked to provide the following information:
● All respective insurance policy information
● Car information – year, make, and model
● The details of the accident, including any details from eyewitnesses
● Information about the other car/driver of participating vehicle
● Reporting office information (badge number, name)
If you fill out the form at the nearest accident reporting centre, this info will be on that form.
How and when to file an accident report?
Filing an accident report following a collision should be prompt. If you did not need to call 9-1-1 because no one was injured, the damages were minimal, and no criminal offences were committed, you should still call the nearest police station for the next steps on how to proceed with filing an accident report. At this stage, an officer may be dispatched to the scene.
If no police officer was called to the accident, or one doesn’t come, note that you will need to go to a Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours of the event.
Filing a police report in the province is relatively easy. You may be asked for specific information from the officer at the scene or at your nearest Collision Reporting Centre. Make sure to follow their instructions when filling out the required documents.
You may be asked to provide the following information when you make your accident report:
● Your insurance policy number
● The make, model, year, licence plate number, and registration of your vehicle
● The date and time of the accident
● Where the accident occurred (street, adjoining street, nearby address)
● Details such as the name of the driver, and licence number if they are not the owner
● What injuries occurred and the extent of the injuries
● Who was involved (passengers, other drivers, pedestrians)
● What damages occurred and the extent of the damages
● All driver’s licence numbers and names of drivers involved
● The names of all insurance companies/policy numbers of drivers involved
● The badge number and name of the representing officer, if the incident was reported
What happens after you file a claim?
Upon filing a claim, your case will be assigned to an insurance adjuster. An insurance adjuster’s role is to investigate ongoing insurance claims and gauge the total amount that was lost or the total cost of damages that will be covered by an insurance company. An insurance adjuster is employed by the claims department of each insurance company, or they may operate as an independent insurance adjuster.
Your insurance adjuster will be your first contact during the claims process, and you may go to them if you have any questions or concerns throughout. After your claim has been reviewed and the total amount lost has been gauged, your adjuster will go over your coverage to you, explaining to what degree your policy covers the damages to your vehicle, or any other costs pertaining to the accident.
If coverage applies, your insurance company will pay to have your vehicle repaired or any other costs paid out. Depending on the coverage, you may need to pay your deductible. However, your provider may waive the deductible for a not at-fault accident.
Depending on the accident, your insurance rates may be impacted. Of course, if you have a waiver known as accident forgiveness, you’ll be “forgiven” for your first accident, and your rates will not be impacted. Accident forgiveness can still apply even if you have changed your vehicle, so long as there are no additional at-fault accidents. Accident forgiveness is a flexible coverage that helps to maintain your driving record.
Once your vehicle has been repaired, your insurer will close the claim and the incident may go on your insurance record.
When should you pass on filing a claim?
Knowing when and when not to file an insurance claim is not always a simple science. In Canada, hundreds of thousands of car accidents happen every year, but not each and every single one is a head-on collision, and some are just your typical fender-benders happening in supermarket grocery stores or school parking lots. Driving in Canada comes with all sorts of hazards, like navigating the cold winter weather, tough driving conditions, and heavy traffic in the more populated cities.
Sometimes, you get into an accident and you aren’t sure if the damage is worth filing a claim. As you are likely already aware, filing claims can end up going on your insurance history, which in turn may end up impacting your insurance rates. We might not want to go through the insurance process for numerous reasons.
So if you’re wondering, “when to go through car insurance?” take a look at the following scenarios where filing a claim may be best:
● When someone else insists on handling the matter privately. It’s hard to know what the actual scale of damages is without an adjuster, and you want to avoid private deals altogether since there’s no proof to show you made an agreement with the other party. If you caused damage to their vehicle, pay them, and then they realise the damage was
more extensive than what was originally assumed, they might turn around and demand more money for you. They may even file a claim of their own.
● If the accident involved injuries. You should never pass on filing a claim if injuries were involved in the accident, even if they seem minor. Medical bills can be colossal, and they are certainly not something you will want to try to pay for out-of-pocket. With injuries, police will also need to be involved. Hiding any injuries is just as bad for your insurance rates as it is for your health.
● If you are unsure of what the extent of the damage is. Minor damage is usually easy to determine, but in accidents where you are not sure if the damages exceeded your deductible amount, you will want to notify your insurance company. This ensures that your wallet is covered if the cost to repair the vehicle is higher than anticipated.
● If the damages are major. This is a no-brainer. Yes, your insurance rates might be impacted, but what your insurance will cover is far more important than what you would save by not having this accident on your record. The damages could be thousands and thousands of dollars, and you would be responsible for all of those costs out-of-pocket! Plus, the other vehicle’s driver may seek to file a claim against you if you were at-fault.
Knowing when to avoid filing a claim is also important to avoid raising your premiums. Here are some examples of when passing on filing a claim might be best:
● If you only caused major damage to your own vehicle and didn’t have collision coverage. Your insurance company won’t pay for damages to your vehicle if you did the damage. You should still report the incident to both your provider and the police, since failing to do so can result in a licence suspension or a fine. As always, you should always report an incident where other drivers/vehicles or pedestrians were involved.
● If the damage is extremely minor, such as if you backed into a tree. If you didn’t have collision coverage or if the damage was minor enough (and it doesn’t exceed your deductible) you may consider simply passing on filing your claim.
You will always want to report the majority of accidents that occur to your insurance company and the police. If you aren’t sure, report it anyway. You are legally obligated to report incidents where damages are extensive or someone was injured.
Should you shop around for car insurance every 6 months?
You can, but you don’t necessarily have to. You should shop around for new car insurance quotes at least once every year. But, if you’re absolutely, 100% adamant about getting the best rates possible, you can shop around for new quotes every six months – about the length of a
semi-annual policy. Of course, if you have an annual or twelve month policy, the best time to shop around for car insurance is before that policy renews – so, every twelve months.
Since car insurance is regulated by the province, you will never encounter holiday savings, and you can never purchase less than what is required by the provincial government. It can work against you to try and “anticipate” insurance companies’ rate revisions, but you can preemptively do your quote shopping following an event that may have changed your personal demographics, like getting older if you’re a younger/inexperienced driver, you’ve changed vehicles, change of primary driver, if you’ve moved, or been in an accident.
Listed below are some examples of events where you might want to consider shopping around for quotes to get a better idea of your new prices, or even better, contact your insurance provider and inform them of the change to continue holding your loyalty discounts:
● If you’ve moved recently
● If the usage of your car has changed
● If you changed jobs and your new commute is much shorter/you can walk or public transport to work and your mileage will have decreased
● If the primary driver has changed
● If you’ve been involved in an at-fault accident
● If you’ve added a new driver to your policy
● If you’ve changed vehicles
● If you’ve partaken in a defensive driving course
Shopping for car insurance rates is easier with the help of a broker, too. A broker can get you access to quotes not available on the general market, ultimately making your job of finding affordable car insurance all the easier.
Can you cancel an open auto insurance claim?
The short answer: yes, you can technically open an ongoing auto claim. In most cases this is possible, and most commonly it happens because the driver does not want to pay the deductible. For example, say you filed a claim for an accident before an autobody shop was able to give you a quote for the damages that occurred. If the damages added up to only $600, and your deductible was $500, it probably would not be worth filing the claim as you would only receive $100 from your insurance company and your insurance rates would be affected.
Some drivers will cancel claims if the increase in premiums outweighs the total claim payout. It can be tough to know when this is the right thing to do if you aren’t familiar with making claims, or haven’t made one in a while.
You can technically even cancel an active claim that has already been paid. In most cases, you should be able to withdraw your claim so long as you haven’t already cashed the check. You may not be able to do this if you were found at-fault for the accident, or if a secondary driver was operating your vehicle at the time of the accident. Remember that if you withdraw the claim from the insurer, the insurer will still want proof of repairs or they may remove collision/comp coverage; or if it is extensive damage – cancel the policy entirely.