By: Zachary R. McDonald
That could be your car in the event of an accident. It is a scary thing to think about, but it is not uncommon (Canada has about 160,000 car accidents every year). In the event of an automobile accident, there are some dos and don’ts you should remember before you wind up with a totaled car like the one above AND a lawsuit, or even a criminal record!
5 Things You Should Do in the Event of an Accident
Stop, Breathe, Think, and Seek Medical Advice
It is easy to lose it when an accident occurs, especially if the accident was caused by another driver. In the heat of the moment, you might make comments or threats that can be used against you by the other party in court. When the police arrive, it is even smarter to remain as silent as possible. You don’t want to do something that results in immediate consequences, like being placed under arrest.
It’s important to consider that you have no idea what the extent of your injuries are. A simple bang on the head can turn out to be much more severe than that – potentially life-threatening. Getting worked up, moving around too much, stressing out over money or the state of your car – those things are unnecessary right after an accident. Also, it is very important to see a medical professional, no matter the severity of the accident. You could have injuries you are not aware of, leading to serious health issues down the road if untreated. Check to see if the other driver, passengers, or pedestrians are injured too.
Take a deep breath, remember that all is not lost. Once you are calm, collected, and have ensured that your passengers, if there are any, are okay, approach the other driver (if there is one) to exchange insurance and contact information.
Call Your Insurance Company
This might seem obvious but giving your insurance company a shout as soon as possible is your first step towards handling your mangled automobile stress-free. Many details which require exact precision need to be relayed to your insurance company as soon as you are aware of them. The insurance company will want to know the extent of the damage to your automobile, who was involved, and the extent of any injuries. They can also recommend a towing company and an accident centre (if damage is severe) where your car can be kept until a conclusion is reached on the insurance matter. Be careful when dealing with towing companies- CAA or equivalent is always safe to have. There are towing company horror stories as to towing costs etc.
Nobody likes calling their insurance company, but if you ever have to do it, the best time is right after an automobile accident.
Call Your Family
You may want to swap numbers 2 and 3 around depending on the severity of the accident, because calls with your insurance company can take an hour or more, and your family may become aware of the accident quicker than you think. Nobody wants to have to sit by the phone, wondering if their loved one is okay after an accident. Call them and let them know you are okay.
Call the Police
It is the law. Under Section 199(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, you must report an accident that you are involved in, as soon as you can, to the police. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to $1,000 and 3 demerit points on your record.
More to the point, the police can help you deal with the other driver if he or she is refusing to provide information. The police will ensure your safety if the accident took place on the highway or some other, busy area of traffic. They can help calm you down if your nerves are still firing on all cylinders.
Call Aitken Robertson
Lawyers like to know exactly what happened as soon as it happened. This helps them build the perfect defence for you. If you expect you will need legal assistance with the accident, you need to call Aitken Robertson.
We have offices throughout Ontario, in cities such as Peterborough, Lindsay, North York, Kingston, Durham Region and Toronto, and we serve many regions around those cities as well. With Aitken Robertson you receive a guarantee that lawyers with 75+ years of combined experience will tackle your matter together – as a team. You cannot afford not to give us a call, even just to set up an initial consultation (it is free!) and see where you stand in terms of your rights, potential compensation, your insurance company’s obligations to you, and much more.
3 Things to AVOID After an Accident!
Leaving the Scene or Not Reporting the Accident
The worst possible thing you can do after an accident is leave the scene prematurely, or failing to report the accident to the proper channel. Ontario law requires that you report the accident immediately, at the scene or as soon as is practicable, if anyone is injured or appears to be injured, or if the damage appears to be at or above $2000, in total, taking both vehicles into consideration. That’s a lot to assess when you have just been in an accident. Throw in the possibility of the Criminal Code charge of Fail to Stop (hit and run), and it seems far wiser to report everything.
If you have reasons to not want to call the police after an accident such as impairment or a suspended licence, a whole other bag of worms is opened. It may not seem like it, but even if this is the case, it is still better in the long run to stay there, but number 5 on your to-do list becomes more urgent.
Failure to remain at the scene can result in a fine as high as $2,000, jail time up to six months (in rare, particularly bad circumstances), a licence suspension for up to TWO YEARS and SEVEN demerit points on your record. That many points at once will undoubtedly prompt a review of your licence by the MTO, leading to an administrative suspension separate from that which may be imposed by the court if you are convicted.
Losing Your Cool
This goes back to number 1 of what TO DO in the event of an accident, and it is so important that it is worth highlighting in what to AVOID. In this case, it is losing your cool. This can take many forms, but even being disrespectful and aggressive with the other driver (if there is one) can lead you down a path that you do not want to be on.
You have no idea what might happen after your accident. The legal implications and criminal consequences might not be apparent at first, but you will quickly discover them if you start fighting with another driver or passenger. Keep your head on and remember that people make mistakes – you and other drivers included.
Speaking Freely to Police, and Speaking Freely, Period.
Make no admissions as to fault. Instinct might cause you to admit your mistake in an accident, in an attempt to diffuse the situation and just be a responsible person. Although admirable, it is not advisable. Whether it is to the other driver or to the police, take care in what you say and how you say it after an accident. Police will ensure you are physically safe, but they are always looking for evidence enough to lay a charge, and the most readily available is what you say, as they were not there and didn’t see the accident. You can show concern for the other driver’s well-being, but don’t admit fault.
So what are you required to say? Nothing. Truly nothing. In a traffic stop you have to identify yourself, provide proof of driving privilege, and provide proof of insurance. All this can be accomplished by handing the police your driver’s licence and insurance slip. In an accident, you are statutorily required to provide a statement. This will be a written statement, so any words you add only serve to give police extra evidence that never helps you.
For example, perhaps you were driving behind a vehicle and it randomly stopped. You know that you were following at a safe distance and that you took all proper precautions to avoid an accident – however, police might suspect you have committed the offence of following too closely as outlined under Section 158(1) of the Highway Traffic Act. The penalty on conviction of this offence is a fine of up to $1,000.00 and 4 demerit points on your driving record.
So, say nothing. This is the case even if you are arrested, and in that case, police MUST read you your right to counsel and other rights. If you choose to (and you should), you can inform the police that you would like to remain silent until you have spoken to a lawyer and received legal advice (even after that, you have no legal obligation to say a single word).
While we would never advise someone to purposefully lie to police in order to cover up a crime, you may not know the potential ramifications of the information you provide to police, even seemingly innocent pieces of information. That is why you should call a lawyer, such as the ones that work at Aitken Robertson, BEFORE you say anything to police. Anything you say can (and WILL) be used against you. As well, if you need someone to assist you in a civil claim we can make a referral for you.