Know what to do af­ter an ac­ci­dent.

The Hamilton Spectator - - WHEELS -

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.

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