How Long Do I Have to Report a Car Accident in Canada?

By Heidi Unrau | Published on 20 Sep 2023

How long do I have to report a car accident

The deafening crash, the sharp gasp, and the inevitable question, “Is everyone okay?” If you’re reading this right now, chances are you’ve been involved in a car accident recently (and your heart might still be racing!). First things first: take a deep breath. It’s okay to feel rattled. The next question you need to ask yourself is “How long do I have to report a car accident?” 

In Canada, the requirements for reporting a car accident are not exactly straightforward – or intuitive. But before you get caught up in the technicalities, let’s lay out the basics so you know what immediate steps to take and how to avoid any criminal charges – like leaving the scene of an accident. 

How long do I have to report a car accident in Canada?

It depends entirely on where the accident occurred. How long you have to report a car accident varies from one province to the next. When it comes to police reports, it’s crucial to check the specific regulations and guidelines for the province or territory in which the accident happened. 

Even if not legally mandated, it’s best practice to report any accident to your car insurance company promptly, especially if there may be a claim or if another party might make a claim. Let’s explore the general guidelines to keep you out of legal and financial trouble. 

911: How long do I have to report a car accident to the Police?

Some minor scrapes might not warrant a call to the police. However, your gut feeling and emotional well-being are also essential indicators. Each Canadian province sets a guideline – often a dollar amount for estimated damages – that can guide whether or not you need to get the police involved.

For instance, both Alberta and Ontario have a $2,000 threshold for damages. If you’re guessing the total damage is less than this, then a call to the police isn’t typically mandatory. But here’s the kicker: if damages are $2,000 or more and you skip that crucial report, there’s a risk of a “leaving the scene” criminal charge. And trust me, that’s one visitor you don’t want knocking at your door.

1-800: How long do I have to report a car accident to my insurance company?

Always, and right away! Even if you and the other party think you can sort it out amongst yourselves, keep your insurance in the loop. The other driver may choose to report it later, and you don’t want any surprises. While this isn’t typically a legal requirement, some car insurance companies may require you to notify them within a specific time frame, and all of them have a statute of limitations on how long you have to submit a claim.

Reporting private property collisions

Guess what? That little bump in the parking lot isn’t as “private” as you might think. If the damage goes beyond your province’s threshold or if injuries are involved, then the rules are just as strict as on the main road.

How long do I have to report a car accident in my province?

Now for the reason we’re all here: “How long do I have to report a car accident in my specific province?” Each Canadian province has its own set of guidelines, and understanding them is crucial to ensuring you’re on the right side of the law (and your insurance company!). Let’s dive into the specific timelines and regulations for each region.

British Columbia (BC)

In BC, you are legally required to report a car accident to the police immediately if there are any injuries, fatalities, or damage exceeds $10,000. If there are no injuries and the damage is minor, you have 30 days to report. You are also required to report any car accident in which you are involved to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) within 30 days, even if they are not your insurance provider.

Alberta (AB)

If there are any injuries or fatalities, the accident must be reported to the police immediately. If there are no injuries, but the damage exceeds $2,000, you have 24 hours to report. You should also report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible, typically within 30 days. The required timeframe varies by provider. Check your policy now to understand your reporting responsibilities.  

Saskatchewan (SK)

In Saskatchewan, you need to report a car accident to the police immediately if it involves any injuries or fatalities. If there is only minor damage, no injuries or deaths, you have 2 years to report. However, all collisions must be reported to Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) regardless of the cost of damage.

Manitoba (MB)

In Manitoba, you must report a car accident to the police within 7 days if there are any injuries or fatalities, regardless of the amount of damage. All car accidents, no matter how minor, must be reported to Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) within 24 hours, even if there’s no visible damage.

When there’s a collision with a domestic animal that leads to its injury or death, it’s mandatory to report to the police if the animal isn’t removed from the road; otherwise, the incident should be reported to either the animal’s owner or the municipality’s clerk if the owner is unknown. 

Ontario (ON)

In Ontario, if there’s an injury, death, or the damage exceeds $2,000, or you suspect another driver may be impaired by drugs or alcohol, you must contact the police immediately. For minor accidents with no injuries and where damage appears to be less than $2,000, you must report it to a Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours. Additionally, it’s crucial that you inform your car insurance provider about any accident within 7 days or sooner.

Quebec (QC)

In Quebec, if there are any injuries or fatalities, you must report the accident to the police immediately. After seeking medical attention and noting all injury-related symptoms, ensure your doctor forwards the medical report to the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ). If there is only property damage, no injuries or fatalities, you must file a claim with the SAAQ as soon as possible and inform your private insurance provider immediately.

If you hit a parked car or object but cannot notify the owner, you must report the accident at your nearest police station. If you strike an animal, there are specific reporting requirements. You have different responsibilities to fulfill depending on if you hit a domestic animal like a dog vs. a wild animal, or if the animal weighs over 55 pounds (25 kg). 

Atlantic Provinces (NB, NS, PEI, NFL)

This is a catch-all term that refers to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland & Labrador. Generally, any accident in these provinces that results in injury, death, or significant damage should be reported to the police immediately. You should also notify your insurance company as soon as possible.

New Brunswick: If there are any injuries or fatalities, you must report the accident immediately. If there are no injuries, you must report an accident to the police immediately if there is more than $1,000.00 of property damage.

Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland & Labrador: If there are any injuries or fatalities, you must contact the police immediately. If there are no injuries, you must report a car accident to the police immediately if there is more than $2,000.00 worth of property damage.

The Territories 

This refers to the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Yukon. The specifics might vary here, but in general, accidents resulting in injury, death, or significant damage should be reported to both the police and your insurance company immediately. 

Northwest Territories: If there are any injuries or fatalities, you must report the accident immediately. If there are no injuries, you must report an accident to the police immediately if there is more than $2,000.00 worth of damage.

Nunavut: It does not matter if there are no injuries or deaths, any car accident that damages another person’s property must be reported to the police immediately.

Yukon: If there are any injuries or fatalities, you must report the accident immediately. If there are no injuries, you must report a car accident to the police immediately if there is more than $1,000.00 worth of damage.

What happens if I don’t report a car accident to the police?

After the jarring impact of a car accident, amidst the shock and commotion, it’s easy to forget what to do next. Navigating the aftermath can feel overwhelming, and the decision to report—or not—can have lasting implications. Let’s unpack what might unfold if you fail to report a car accident to the police, especially if it’s legally required. 

Legal Implications: Failing to report a car accident when it’s mandatory can result in charges like “leaving the scene.” This is a serious offence, especially if someone was injured in the accident. If found guilty, this charge can lead to hefty fines, demerit points on your driving record, increased insurance premiums, and even jail time in some cases.

Insurance Complications: If you don’t report a car accident and later decide to file a claim, your insurance company might reject it. They could argue that the lack of a police report means there’s insufficient evidence to support your claim. Also, if the other driver involved in the accident reports it and you don’t, their insurer might contact your insurer, complicating things further for you.

Difficulty in Establishing Fault: A police report often provides an objective account of the accident, which can be crucial in determining who was at fault. Without it, if there’s a dispute about the accident details, you may have a harder time proving your case.

Potential Civil Liability: If the other party decides to sue for damages and you didn’t report the accident, the absence of a police report might make it more challenging to defend yourself.

Difficulty in Personal Injury Claims: If you or a passenger in your vehicle later decide to pursue a personal injury claim, having a police report can provide vital evidence. Without it, it may be harder to prove the cause and details of the injuries.

Emotional and Mental Toll: Knowing that you didn’t adhere to the law can bring about feelings of guilt, anxiety, and stress, especially if complications arise later.

You must ALWAYS contact the police immediately if…

Every car accident is different, and there are special circumstances in which you are legally required to report the accident to the police immediately. These circumstances vary only slightly from province to province. Therefore, to be on the safe side, you should always report a car accident to the police immediately if it involves any of the following:

  • Injuries
  • Fatalities
  • You are the victim of a hit-and-run
  • Unlicensed drivers
  • Unregistered or unidentified vehicles
  • Government vehicles
  • Vehicles carrying dangerous/hazardous substances
  • Unable to get the particulars from the other party
  • A driver suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Your car is not driveable
  • Damage to public property like traffic lights, street signs, etc.

Many of these scenarios warrant a 911 call. When in doubt, call anyway. Worst case scenario, they’ll tell you to visit your local police station or collision reporting centre.

What happens if I don’t report a car accident to my insurance provider?

It’s a question that often arises after the initial shock of a car accident begins to fade: “Do I really need to inform my insurance provider?” While it might be tempting to handle things privately, especially if the damages seem minimal or both parties agree on a resolution, not reporting an accident to your insurance company can lead to problems down the road. Let’s delve into the potential repercussions of keeping that accident under wraps.

Denied Coverage for Damages: If you decide to handle repairs privately but later find that damages are more extensive than initially thought, your car insurance company might refuse to cover those repairs if you didn’t report the accident promptly.

Increased Premiums: If the other person involved in the accident decides to file a claim against you and you haven’t notified your insurance company, they may see this as suspicious or high-risk behaviour. This could result in increased premiums or even non-renewal of your policy.

Loss of Protection Against Third-party Claims: Without timely reporting, you might not benefit from your insurer’s legal protection if the other driver decides to sue for damages or injuries. Your insurance company’s legal team can be invaluable in defending you against claims.

Breach of Contract: Most insurance policies have a clause that requires you to report all accidents within a very specific period of time, typically 30 days or less. Failing to do so can be seen as a breach of your insurance contract, potentially leading to a cancellation of your policy.

Difficulty in Future Claims: Not reporting a car accident can create trust issues with your insurer. Future claims, even if unrelated, might undergo increased scrutiny or suspicion, complicating the claims process.

Preparing for the worst: The 9 most important things to do right after a car accident in Canada

Look, no one gets behind the wheel thinking, “Today’s a good day for a car accident.” But if it happens, it’s okay to feel shaken, worried, or even a bit lost. But it’s not OK to forget your responsibilities – no matter how shaken up you are. If you’re a driver in Canada, here’s how to hope for the best and prepare for the worst with the top 10 most important things to do right after a car accident: 

Ensure Safety First: Before anything else, make sure you, your passengers, and individuals from the other vehicle(s) are safe. If possible and it’s safe to do so, move your car to the side of the road or another safe spot.

Check for Injuries: Examine yourself and others involved for any potential injuries. If someone is injured, call 911 immediately. A first aid course is something every Canadian should complete and could help save a life before paramedics arrive. Even if an injury seems minor, it’s important to seek medical attention some injuries can manifest symptoms later on.

Call the Police: Depending on the severity of the accident and the province you’re in, you might be legally required to report the accident to the police. Even if it’s a minor fender bender, having an official record can be beneficial for insurance claims.

Exchange Information: Gather essential information from all involved parties. This includes names, contact details, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance information.

Document the Scene: Use your smartphone or camera to take pictures of the accident scene, damages to vehicles, any visible injuries, and any other pertinent details. This visual evidence can be crucial for insurance claims or potential legal matters.

Witness Details: If there were witnesses, ask for their names and contact information. They might provide an unbiased account of the incident, which could be beneficial if there’s any dispute about the events leading up to the accident.

Report to Insurance: Notify your insurance provider about the accident as soon as possible. They’ll guide you through the next steps, which might include filling out a claim form or providing additional details.

Visit a Collision Reporting Centre: In provinces like Ontario, if the police do not attend the scene, you must visit a Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours to fill out a report.

Seek Legal Counsel if Necessary: If the accident is complex or there’s a dispute about who’s at fault, it might be a good idea to consult a lawyer. They can provide guidance on the best way to proceed and ensure you’re well-represented.

Top 5 things NOT to do right after a car accident in Canada

While there’s a checklist of things you should absolutely do following a car crash, it’s equally crucial to recognize the things you absolutely should NOT do. Here are the top 5 things you should steer clear of right after a car accident:

Leaving the Scene: This is a major no-no. Whether it’s a minor scratch or a major collision, leaving the scene can result in serious legal consequences, including charges for a hit and run. Always stay until you’ve exchanged information with the other party and fulfilled any reporting requirements.

Admitting Fault: This one is super hard for Canadians – we’re the undefeated world champs of saying sorry for literally everything. Even if you believe you may have been responsible, avoid admitting fault or apologizing at the scene. Emotions run high, and you might not have a clear picture of what happened. Any admissions can be used against you later in insurance claims or legal proceedings.

Neglecting to Gather Evidence: You might feel flustered and want to exit the situation quickly, but don’t rush away without documenting the scene. Failing to take photos, get witness information, or note down specific details can make it harder for you to present your side of the story later on.

Delaying Medical Attention: Sometimes, the adrenaline can mask injury symptoms. Even if you feel okay, it’s essential not to brush off any minor aches or discomfort. Delaying or refusing medical attention can not only harm your health but also affect any personal injury claims you might wish to pursue later.

Signing Documents without Review: In the aftermath of an accident, you might be approached by insurance adjusters or representatives from the other party asking you to sign statements or settlements. Do not sign anything without thoroughly reading, understanding, and ideally consulting with a legal professional or your insurance company first.

I just reported a car accident – now what?

Now that we’ve answered the question “How long do I have to report a car accident,” actually doing it can be fraught with stress. Nor is it the end of your ordeal. After you report a car accident to the police and your car insurance provider, here’s to take care of yourself in the aftermath: 

Monitor Your Health: Over the next few days and weeks, stay vigilant about your physical and emotional well-being. Sometimes, trauma or stress from the accident can cause delayed reactions.

Consult with a Lawyer: Especially if the accident was severe or there’s a dispute about who was at fault, it might be wise to consult with a personal injury lawyer. They can advise you on your rights, potential compensation, and any possible legal action.

Stay Organized: Keep a dedicated folder or digital space with all the paperwork and documentation related to the accident. This includes police reports, medical bills, repair estimates, and any communication from insurance companies or other parties.

Avoid Discussing the Accident: Be careful about discussing the accident, especially on social media platforms. Comments or photos might be misconstrued and used against you in any insurance or legal proceedings.

Cooperate but Be Cautious: While it’s essential to cooperate with insurance adjusters and other involved parties, always be wary. Remember, insurance companies may aim to minimize payouts. Never sign documents or agree to settlements without understanding them fully or consulting a professional.

Follow-up: After submitting a claim to your car insurance provider, always follow up to ensure it’s being processed. If there are delays or disputes, you might need to provide additional evidence or take further action.

Wrapping it up: beyond just “How long do I have to report a car accident?” 

Life has a way of throwing curveballs, and car accidents are among the most jarring. The whirlwind of emotions, from shock to fear, from gratitude to grief, can be overwhelming. Remember, it’s normal to feel lost and anxious amidst the chaos of bureaucracy and paperwork. But also remember that you’re not alone in this journey. 

There are protocols in place, professionals to guide you, and a community that understands. Breathe deep, and hold on to the knowledge that you’ve taken the necessary steps. Trust that with time, resilience, and support, you’ll navigate this chapter and emerge even stronger. Your journey doesn’t end at the accident. It continues with each step you take toward healing and recovery – physically, emotionally, and financially.

Heidi Unrau is a senior finance journalist at Hardbacon. She studied Economics at the University of Winnipeg, where she fell in love with all-things-finance. At 25, she kicked-off her financial career in retail banking as a teller. She quickly progressed to become a Credit Analyst and then Private Lender. This hands-on industry experience uniquely positions her to provide expert insight on loans, credit scores, credit cards, debt, and banking services. She has been featured in publications such as WealthRocket, Scary Mommy, Credello, and Plooto. When she's not chasing after her two little boys, you'll find her hiding in the car listening to the Freakonomics podcast, or binge-watching financial crime documentaries with a bowl of ice cream. Fun Fact: Heidi has lived in five different provinces across Canada and her blood type is coffee.