Know what to do after an accident.
All too frequently, I hear about motorists who don’t know their rights and end up making bad decisions after an auto collision.
This is regrettable because in all of these situations, they could have avoided excessive towing and storage fees and repair costs if they had known their legal rights and options.
By understanding your rights and obligations, and doing some homework before a collision occurs, motorists can take control of their situations and make informed decisions.
First off, after a collision, if the estimated total damages to all vehicles exceed $2,000, or if there are injuries sustained, you must report the accident to the police right away.
If you’re undecided about the extent of the damage, you have the right to have your vehicle sent to a Collision Reporting Centre, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Approximately 40 centres are located throughout Ontario, mostly in larger urban areas. To find a centre near you, visit collision-reporting-centre.com.
When your vehicle is at a reporting centre, the 24 hours’ free storage period allows you time to contact your insurance company and make arrangements to have your vehicle towed and repaired.
Most motorists who drive newer vehicles probably have roadside assistance service offered by the manufacturer, or they are members of the Canadian Automobile Association, which provides free towing service.
For those who don’t have such plans, there are a number of towing-related items you should determine at the scene before making a decision. These include:
Finding out from the tow-truck driver how much the tow will cost; Finding out if there are any other charges; If you sign any document, making sure you only consent to towing the vehicle;
Not signing anything that allows a company to “tear down” or repair your vehicle;
Finding out if the tow truck has a municipal licence registration number (on its side).
Tow-truck operators provide an essential service on our roads and highways. They are usually the first to arrive at accident scenes and will often contact police and emergency services.
Always exchange information with the other parties involved (including witnesses), such as name, address, phone number, insurance company and policy number. A downloadable copy of an accident worksheet is available at autoinsurance.gov.on.ca. Click on “Automobile Insurance,” and then “What to do after an Auto Accident.”
If you don’t have a pen handy, you can acquire vital information using the camera on your smartphone to take pictures of a damaged vehicle, which could help in a police investigation or an insurance claim.
If you don’t know whether your insurance policy provides for towing, you should. Many drivers never read their insurance policies, but they need to know the conditions and declarations specified in them.
It’s important that consumers understand that they have the right to choose where they want to bring their vehicles for collision repairs. Insurance companies will often recommend a preferred shop, but in the end, the choice is yours.
Many new car dealerships have collision repair facilities on their premises, or they are affiliated with a shop that they recommend. The benefit of choosing a dealership for collision repairs is that they know your vehicle model and brand, inside out.
Dealers have access to the mechanical specifications and original paint requirements of your vehicle, and they employ certified collision technicians to perform repairs to the highest standards.
Being involved in an auto accident is not a fun experience. It’s upsetting, emotionally draining and time-consuming. Don’t make matters worse by being unprepared.
The bottom line with auto collisions is to know your rights and options ahead of time and take control of your situation.
This column represents the views and values of the TADA. Write to president@ tada.ca or go to tada.ca. Bob Redinger is president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and is a new-car dealer in the GTA.