What to do after a minor car accident in Ontario?

By Arthur Dubois | Published on 06 Jul 2023

minor car accident

Getting into a minor car accident can really shake your nerves, especially if you don’t know what to do next. In Ontario, you must follow certain steps to ensure everyone involved stays safe and to address any damage or injuries. Here’s what you need to know about what to do after a minor car accident in Ontario.

Assessing the Situation Immediately After a Minor Car Accident

Right after the collision, assess the situation and take action accordingly. These early moments following an accident, even a small one, can feel overwhelming. However, remain calm and take the appropriate steps to keep everyone safe and prevent further damage.

Whatever you do, stay put. Leaving the scene of an accident can lead to fines ranging from $200 to $2,000. In some cases, you could face a jail term up to six months and a fine. You could also have your licence suspended for up to two years.

If you feel safe leaving your vehicle, step away from traffic. First, turn on your hazard lights if you can to warn other drivers around you. Likewise, you can set up flares or traffic cones if you have some handy.

Check for injuries and call for medical assistance if needed

In the aftermath of a minor car accident in Ontario, you may believe that everyone involved is unharmed. After all, it may seem like a low-impact event. However, never make assumptions about anyone’s health based on immediate appearances. Start by calmly assessing your own condition and that of any passengers in your vehicle. Next, communicate with the occupants of the other vehicle to check their status.

Even though everyone may seem fine at the outset, call 911 and ask for paramedics. They can check each person for neck or back injuries that may not appear at first. After all, when it comes to health, you’ll always want to err on the side of caution. 

If someone says they have pain, don’t move them. Wait for the professionals to run through a series of questions and carefully transport anyone who needs extra care. This will spare you from liability in case of a hidden injury.

Move your vehicle to a safe location if possible

If your vehicle obstructs traffic, move it to the side of the road or another safe location nearby. This can prevent further accidents and keep traffic flowing smoothly. Of course, only drive the car if you safely can.

Once you’ve moved your vehicle, take a moment to assess the damage. If you cannot safely drive it, contact a local tow truck service for assistance. Ontario operates a tow-zone program where you dial 511 within these restricted zones in the Greater Toronto Area:

Zone 1: Highway 401 from Highway 400 east to Morningside Avenue

Zone 2:

  • Highway 401 from Highway 400 west to Regional Road 25
  • Highway 427 from QEW to Highway 409
  • Highway 409 from Highway 427 to Highway 401

Zone 3: Highway 400 from Highway 401 to Highway 9

Zone 4: QEW from Highway 427 to Brant Street

This program began in December 2021 to set reasonable tow rates via standard pricing after minor car accidents in Ontario. It also makes it easier for drivers along these major highways to find a tow truck and leave more quickly. If you don’t need a tow, drive your car to the next exit, then call your insurance company.

Remember, the moments immediately following an accident, however minor, can stress you out. Take a deep breath and focus on what you can control. With the right mindset and actions, you can navigate the aftermath of an accident with confidence.

Exchange Information with the Other Driver

Getting into a car accident can rattle your nerves, but try to stay calm and communicate with everyone involved. Once you’ve assessed the situation and made sure that everyone is safe, exchange information with the other driver.

Collect the necessary information

When talking with the other driver, get their full name, phone number and email address. Also, exchange license plate numbers, insurance information and driver’s license numbers. This information will count when filing an accident report or making a claim with your insurance provider.

While exchanging details, remain polite and professional, even if the other driver becomes difficult or uncooperative. Remember that getting into an argument or altercation will only make the situation worse.

You can record details on an Ontario government worksheet that captures all relevant details. It includes the weather, estimated speeds, the name of the tow truck driver and police officer, if one attends. Even better, you get a space to draw a diagram of how the collision happened while your memory remains fresh.

Offering direct compensation to the other driver

In instances where the accident results in very minor damage, you might consider offering direct compensation to the other driver. This way, you avoid reporting to the insurance companies, aiming to keep your insurance premiums unchanged.

While this approach can seem appealing, proceed with caution. Settling privately doesn’t provide any formal record of the agreement, leaving room for further claims or disputes down the line. If the other party later asserts that the damage was more extensive than initially thought, they could demand more money. Even worse, they can file an insurance claim, which could ultimately affect your insurance record.

Take photos of the accident scene

After exchanging information with the other driver, take photos and videos of the accident scene. First, aim to capture images of the damage to all vehicles involved, as well as the surrounding area. This helps when providing evidence to your insurance company or the authorities after a minor car accident in Ontario.

If possible, take photos of any skid marks or debris on the road, as well as the weather conditions. These details can help paint a clearer picture of what happened and may help in determining fault.

Reporting the Accident to the Authorities

In Ontario, you must report any car accident to the authorities in certain situations. This ensures that the proper authorities know about the incident and can take necessary action to investigate the cause. Reporting also helps to protect your legal rights and ensure that you receive any appropriate compensation.

When to report a minor car accident in Ontario

Legally, you must report the accident to the police and file a collision report if anyone gets injured. The same applies if a vehicle sustains more than $2,000 in damage or if the other driver appears drunk or high. Even so, you should still report the accident to your insurance company.

Naturally, injuries may not always reveal themselves immediately after a minor car accident in Ontario. Some trauma, such as whiplash, may not show symptoms until several hours or even days after the accident. Therefore, play it safe and report the accident to the authorities.

How to file a collision report

If you didn’t call the police already, contact your nearest Collision Reporting Centre within 24 hours to file a report. The Collision Reporting Centre will provide you with all the necessary information and assistance to file your report. They will also take photographs of the damage to your vehicle and provide you with a copy of the report for your records.

Before you visit a Collision Reporting Centre in person, you can review all the steps needed via the Collision Reporting website. You can only file a report online as a pedestrian or cyclist involved in a collision within the Toronto Police Service area and haven’t spoken with an officer already.

Consequences of not reporting an accident

If you fail to report a car accident when required, could face a fine up to $1,000 dollars and pick up three demerit points. Further, this conviction stays on your driving abstract for three years, which could cause a dramatic increase in insurance rates. Additionally, failing to report an accident may also result in your insurance company denying your claim for damages or injuries sustained in the accident. That can lead to you shopping for new car insurance.

It’s always better to report an accident, even if you wonder if it meets the legal requirements. After all, you can save yourself some strife by taking charge of the situation before you. Honesty can pay off as you avoid expensive penalties.

Contacting Your Car Insurance Company

If you get involved in a collision, notify your insurance provider within 24 hours and file a claim within a week. This will help you to get the support you need to get back on the road. Further, it will minimize any financial losses you may incur as a result of a minor car accident in Ontario.

While some people advise calling your insurer right away, they prefer that you wait until you have a collision centre report. That way, the insurance adjuster can see all the details at once. If they need more, they will ask you a series of questions to help them understand the details of the accident. You can also provide your filled-in accident worksheet.

This also gives you time to read over your Ontario Automobile Policy Owner’s Policy so you know how your coverage fits the situation. 

When not to file a claim with your insurance company

In Ontario, you may not wish to file an insurance claim after a minor accident. In short, you may not want the hassle if it only involves your vehicle and negligible damage. For instance, what if you accidentally back into a tree and you don’t have collision coverage or the damage costs less than your deductible? In this case, it’s often unnecessary to contact your insurance provider. Reporting such minor incidents could potentially lead to increased premiums, outweighing the benefit of a small claim.

However, this advice only applies to minor damages involving your own vehicle. In situations involving other cars, animals, pedestrians or property, you should report the incident to your insurer. Similarly, if the extent of the damage is unclear, err on the side of caution. Additionally, any accidents involving injuries, no matter how minor, should always get reported to both the insurance company and police.

Lastly, remember that most car insurance policies stipulate that drivers notify insurers about every accident, regardless of fault or circumstances. When in doubt, consult with your insurance broker or provider about whether or not to file a claim. Just take a moment to balance the risk with the potential reward.

What information to provide to your insurer

When you contact your insurance company, provide them with a detailed account of the accident. This should include information about what happened, the parties involved and any damage or injuries that occurred.

Provide these details when making your report about a minor car accident in Ontario:

  • Your policy number
  • Make, model, year, registration and licence plate number of the vehicle
  • Driver’s name and licence number 
  • If they own the car
  • Date, time and location of the accident
  • Extent of any injuries
  • Number of passengers involved
  • Extent of damage to the vehicle
  • Your description of the accident
  • Names and driver’s licence numbers of all drivers involved
  • Their insurance companies and auto insurance policies 
  • The name and badge number of the investigating officer if relevant

You should also provide your insurance company with any photos or witness statements you collected at the scene of the accident. This will help them to better understand what happened and to process your claim more quickly.

Understanding your coverage and potential claims

Before you make a claim, understanding your insurance coverage and any deductibles that may apply eases your stress. This will help you to make informed decisions about what to do next.

You may go through a process to determine who caused the accident, which affects whether your insurance premiums will change or not. Generally, rates go up if you are even 50 percent responsible for the collision. The same rule applies if you loaned your car to another driver and they contributed to the crash.

Your insurance provider can assist you with the claims process and address any questions or concerns you may have. They can also provide you with information about any potential claims, such as for lost wages or medical expenses.

Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications