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1. Check for injuries and avoid further injury
As difficult as it may seem, it is important that you remain calm. The first thing to do is to make sure that everyone involved in the accident is okay. If you, or anyone else is injured, call 911. If it is safe to do so, move your vehicle to the side of the road, and out of traffic. If your vehicle cannot be driven, turn on your hazard lights, or put out caution triangles or flares if you have them. Do not let anyone move you if you are seriously injured.
2. Call the police
If anyone is injured, or if you suspect that the other driver is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you must call 911. The Police will be dispatched, as well as an ambulance if need be. If no one is injured and the damages to all involved vehicles appears to be less than $1,000, you should call your local Police, as opposed to 911. The Police may be dispatched, or you may be instructed to report to a Collision Reporting Centre, or to the nearest police station to file a report within 24 hours.
3. Get Information
At the scene, be sure to write down the licence plate numbers of all vehicles involved. Make sure to record the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses of all other drivers and the insurance information for each of the other vehicles. You should also obtain the contact information for all passengers and witnesses.
4. Make use of your smart phone for photos & video
Most people now have a smart phone with a camera, so be sure to make use of it after the collision. If it is safe to do so, take pictures of the resting places of the vehicles before they are moved. Photograph the scene of the accident, paying particular attention to any skid marks or debris. If possible, take a video of the scene as well. Take photographs of any damages to the vehicles.
5. Get the right tow truck operator
If you need your vehicle towed, you would be wise to ask the police for the name of an authorized tow truck operator. Have your vehicle towed to a Collision Reporting Centre or police station until you can speak with your insurance company. They will instruct you on which garage or body shop they would like you to take your vehicle to. Be careful of unauthorized (and sometimes unscrupulous) tow truck operators who may try to convince you to take your vehicle to a body shop that they recommend.
6. Don’t admit any fault
When you are at the accident location, do not admit any fault for the accident to anyone. Do not sign any statements regarding fault or make any arrangements or promise to pay for damages.
7. Get Medical Help
If you have been injured in the accident, it is very important that you seek prompt medical attention. If an ambulance does not arrive, you should attend the Emergency Department of the nearest hospital to be assessed. You should then follow up with your own family doctor to find out options for treatment and rehabilitation. Muscle pain is commonly worse one to two days after the accident.
8. Call your Insurance Company
As soon as possible, you must report the accident to your insurance company, which you can do through your broker or agent, if you have one.
9. Write down a Description of the Accident
While it is still fresh in your mind, whether at the scene of the accident, the hospital or when you are back at home, write down a description of the accident, including details such as date and time, weather, location, lane of travel, direction of vehicles, and how the accident occurred. Draw yourself a diagram.
10. Apply for Accident Benefits
Regardless of who was at fault for the accident, all motorists in Ontario are entitled to Statutory Accident (no fault) benefits from their own insurance company. You must notify your insurance company within 7 days if you wish to apply for accident benefits. Your insurance company will provide you with the application forms, which you must complete and send back to the insurance company within 30 days after receiving them.
11. Follow up soon and often with your family doctor
It is very important to see your family doctor as soon as possible after the accident. Make sure that you tell your doctor about all of your symptoms. Be specific about your pain. Your doctor’s notes regarding these visits will become vital evidence in support of any personal injury claim that you may make. The notes are also important to justify continued treatment that will be paid for by your insurance company, if you continue to qualify. Be sure to do what your doctor tells you to do. Be diligent about keeping appointments. If you don’t go regularly to your doctor, your insurance company will infer that you are no longer suffering any pain as a result of your accident related injuries.
12. Hire a personal injury lawyer
As soon as possible after the accident, you’ll need to contact a personal injury lawyer to protect your interests and advise you of your rights. This is a complicated area of law, so you want a lawyer who specializes in personal injury. At Santucci Personal Injury Law, we work on contingency basis, meaning that the lawyer will be paid their fees only when your claim is successfully resolved. If you do not recover anything, we do not charge any fees. We also offer an initial free consultation to talk about your motor vehicle accident case. You do not have to provide a retainer or pay fees on an hourly basis.
13. Keep your private information private
Do not discuss the accident or your injuries with anyone other than the police (when they interview you at the scene or when you make your report), your doctors and your lawyer. If your own insurance company wants to talk about your case, they should be referred to your lawyer.
14. Be careful about what you sign
You will have to sign the police report and any statement that you give to the police. Other than that, you should not sign anything else without running it by your personal injury lawyer.
15. Keep Detailed Records
In the days, weeks and months after the accident, you should keep a record of your pain and injury symptoms, and any physical limitations. Be sure to record any lost time from work and lost wages. You should also keep track of your out of pocket expenses such as prescriptions, over the counter medication, parking, transportation, etc.
Patricia Santucci is a personal injury lawyer born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario. She holds several degrees having attended King’s College at the University of Western Ontario, McMaster University, earned a Master of Arts degree at the University of Windsor and an Ontario Teaching Degree from Teacher’s College as well as her Ontario Teaching Certificate. After graduating from the University of Alberta law school she was called to the bar in 2000. You can find Patricia on Google+ and LinkedIn or directly through this website