If you’ve ever been in any kind of vehicle collision you know they are stressful events that send your mind racing with a flood of questions: Should I call the police? Is anyone hurt? Do I call a tow truck? How damaged is my car? Knowing what to do ahead of time can help you and your family get through this unfortunate experience. Below, we offer a few tips to help guide you through the most important decisions you need to make before and after you’ve been in a collision.
No matter how careful you are, car accidents happen. The best way to ease the aftermath is to be prepared in advance. Ensure you have all necessary documentation on hand when you are on the road. Keep your driver’s licence, ownership, and car insurance slip with you when you drive — and make sure you have the right insurance coverage to fit your needs.
Do a health check
The first thing you should do in the event of a collision is take care of yourself and anyone else who is involved. Ask if everyone is okay. If anyone seems hurt, groggy, confused, or unsure, call 911. Often times, injuries can’t be seen and the shock of a collision can delay symptoms. It’s better to caution on the side of safety.
Move to the shoulder if you can
If not seriously injured, all those involved should move to the sidewalk or shoulder of the road as soon as possible to stay away from the flow of moving traffic. However, if anyone has been seriously injured, do not move the victim(s) unless there is an immediate risk of further injury (such as from oncoming traffic, leaking fuel, or fire) as you could aggravate injuries.
If damage to the vehicles involved in the collision is minor, you may consider moving the vehicles to the shoulder. If you are unsure that a vehicle can be operated safely, or if there is any uncertainty about the cause of the collision or who’s at fault, leave the vehicles where they are. While no one wants to be the cause of a traffic jam, it’s important to give law enforcement everything they need to investigate the scene. As you wait for the police and/or tow trucks, use flares, cones and your vehicle’s hazard lights to alert other drivers to your presence on the road.
Call the police
Always call the police if:
someone is injured or killed;
you think any other driver may be guilty of an offence in the Criminal Code of Canada, such as dangerous driving, failing to stop at the scene of the accident, driving without insurance, or impaired driving; or
there is significant damage to public or private property.
Gather and exchange information
Be sure to get the following information when on the scene:
full name and contact information of all other drivers;
each driver’s insurance company name and each driver’s policy number;
licence plate number for all vehicles;
type, colour, and model for all vehicles;
full names and contact information of any witnesses; and
pictures of the scene and of all vehicles
Pictures are packed with valuable information. If you have access to a digital camera or smart phone, take pictures and videos of the scene. Be sure to take photos of the vehicles, damage to vehicles, licence plates, and documents like pink slips (insurance information cards) and driver’s licences. Also take notes about the specific details of the accident (where it occurred, what the weather was like, the number of occupants in each vehicle, date, and time) and consider sketching out the layout of the accident if you don’t have a smart phone handy. This kind of documentation can help your insurer process your claim more quickly.
File a report
If you call the police, the operator will ask you a few questions and may provide instructions on what to do next. Police officers may or may not be dispatched to the scene. The police operator might instruct you to report to the nearest police station (or Collision Reporting Centre in Ontario) within 24 hours to file a report. Regardless of whether an accident report is completed by a police officer or at a Collision Reporting Center, Try to obtain a copy of the report, or ask for the report number.
Call your insurance company
Contact your insurance company as soon as it is possible to do so in safety, and, ideally while you’re still on the scene. A claims representative can help walk you through the claims process and will request information that will be needed to start any claims. In addition, if you call from the scene, your insurer may be able to help you get your car towed safely by recommending a reputable tow truck company. They may also direct you to a quality auto repair shop in your area. Be wary of unauthorized tow truck operators pressuring you to have your vehicle towed, or attempting to take your vehicle to a body shop of their choice. Remember: the decision about what tow truck company to use is yours, even if a tow truck driver tells you they’ve been asked to move your vehicle. Also, it’s advisable to speak to your insurance company before signing any papers or invoices from a tow truck driver.