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What To Do if You Are in a Car Accident

April 13, 2021
4 mins
A man reaches for the volume dial while driving his car

Driving a vehicle is possibly one of the most dangerous things we will ever do. And, unfortunately, many of us will experience what it’s like to be in a car accident.

Whether it was last week or last year, if you’ve been involved in an accident, you probably remember it like it was yesterday. Collisions are scary and are hard to forget. They can also have an impact on your car insurance premium.

Regrettably, collisions happen a lot. According to Transport Canada, there are about 120,000 police-reported collisions each year. In terms of motor vehicle fatalities and injuries in Canada, in 2018, Transport Canada’s data shows there were 1,922 fatalities, and 9,494 people were seriously injured.

If you get into a car accident, consider these tips to help you manage the situation:

  • Stay calm. Take a deep breath and give yourself a chance to calm down. Getting into a car accident can be jarring. Taking a few moments to collect yourself will help you take stock of the situation and handle it better.
  • Call for help. Call 911 if you or anyone is injured. If no one is injured and total damage to all the vehicles involved appears to be less than $2,000, call or visit a Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours (if you are in Ontario). A similar rule applies in Alberta, requiring you to go to a police station and file a Collision Report Form. However, if the total damage to all the vehicles involved appears to be more than $2,000, or you suspect that any of the other drivers involved may be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, call the police.
  • Document the incident. If it’s safe to do so, get out of your vehicle and take photos and a video of the damage to your vehicle and the accident scene. If you don’t have a mobile phone to do so, take notes with a pen and paper (it’s worthwhile to keep a pen and notepad in your vehicle).
  • Exchange information. Get the name, driver’s licence number, address, phone number and insurance information from the other driver and provide your particulars to them. If there are any witnesses, ask for their contact information as well.
  • Move to the side of the road. Turn on your hazard lights, and if your vehicle is drivable and it’s safe to do so, move it to the side of the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic. If you can’t drive your car, keep your hazard lights flashing and wait for help.
  • Avoid confrontation. Do not admit fault or accuse the other driver of fault for the accident. Determining which driver is at fault and to what degree will be determined by an insurance adjuster. Also, if other drivers at the scene become abusive, distance yourself from them until the police arrive.
  • Call your insurer. Call your car insurance provider as soon as possible to report the accident and file a claim. Your insurer will walk you through the process of filing a claim.
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How long will a collision affect your car insurance rate?

If you were found in any way responsible for causing a collision, your insurance premium would likely reflect this reality at renewal. Furthermore, it takes six years for an at-fault collision to no longer factor into the premium you pay.

In the meantime, how can you keep your premium as low as possible? The answer is to shop around. Even if you’ve been with your current insurer for years (and perhaps, especially if you’ve been with them for years), you should put your premium to the test as some insurers are more forgiving than others if you have a collision on your driving record.

Don’t let history repeat itself

Your driving record and insurance history factor heavily into the car insurance rate you pay, but the good news is a collision won’t follow you forever. The key is to keep your driving record and insurance history clean. Therefore, you may want to:

  • Brush up on your reading. Your province’s driver’s handbook isn’t just for new drivers trying to pass their test. It’s a great resource for experienced drivers as a quick refresher too.
  • Consider taking a driving course. Driving well takes concentration and skill. If you’ve never taken a driver’s training course, or it has been decades since you last did, there are refresher courses for experienced drivers to hone their skills.

Both options will help correct risky habits that you may have developed over the years, highlight traffic laws that may have changed, and provide practice (or insight) for difficult driving challenges that we might encounter.

Steer clear of high car insurance rates and make sure safe driving is always the destination.

Liam Lahey

Liam Lahey is a versatile, seasoned writer and editor. He worked as both a staff writer and freelance writer for many business and technology publications as well as for several newspapers. He writes about home, auto, and travel insurance, and is a media spokesperson for RATESDOTCA.

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