What to do if you are in a Motor Vehicle Accident

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The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on a wide variety of legal issues in the Province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.

This topic will discuss what you should do if you are involved in a motor vehicle collision.

Always cooperate with the police and give them or anyone who suffers loss or injury from the collision your name, address, driver’s license number, the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle, registration number of the vehicle and all information from the pink insurance card.

Even if the collision was your fault, do not admit anything to the police or the other driver. Do not argue with the other driver and remain calm. Assault charges frequently arise at the scene of an accident. Do not argue with the police. If you believe you are innocent of the charges, argue your case in the Court. You are generally required to give a written account of the incident to the police. The statement is not producible in any Court proceeding as it is a privileged statement.

If the collision is serious, remain at the scene of the collision and wait for the police. If you fail to remain at the scene, you could be charged with a traffic or criminal offence. Call the police and explain the situation. They will let you know whether you should remain at the scene or attend at a police station to make a written account. If someone is injured, you must remain at the scene until the police arrive. Do not move your vehicle until the police give you permission to do so. Even if there are no injuries, you may prefer not to move the vehicle until the police arrive and investigate. If there is a dispute as to who is at fault or the other driver is drinking, it is also imperative that the police attend the scene.

Where the damage to any vehicle amounts to approximately $2,000 (as of January 1, 2011), or more, you should remain at the scene until the police arrive. If you believe the damage is less than $2,000, call the police and ask them if you should remain at the scene or attend at the police station. You should attend at the police station within 1 day of the collision. Auto-body shops cannot repair a vehicle with an estimated damage over $2,000 unless the vehicle has an “accident sticker”. The police will provide you with a sticker to attach to the windshield of the vehicle after a written report have been provided to them of the incident.

In some circumstances, you may have a legal obligation to provide or secure medical assistance. However, there is generally no legal obligation to assist strangers. If you assist with any injured persons at the scene of an accident, you will not be held liable for injury or death caused by your assistance unless you are grossly negligent or use extremely improper care.

Gather as much information as you can about the collision scene. Get the names, address and phone numbers of all parties and witnesses. The other driver must give you their name, address, phone number and insurance particulars. If the witnesses or other drivers involved in the accident do not remain at the scene, write down their license plate numbers and a description of them and their vehicle. You can find out who the owner is from your local Motor Vehicle Registry office.

If you have a camera, take pictures of the accident scene and the position of the vehicles. If you do not have a camera, draw a sketch of these things. Write down your version of the events as soon as possible and ensure to include the following details:

  • The date, time and exact location of the accident.
  • The direction that each vehicle was traveling.
  • The weather and road conditions.
  • The names of any ambulance personal who attended.
  • The names and badge numbers of the police officers who investigated.
  • The names and address and phone numbers of witnesses.
  • Anything that you observe and think is unusual about the other vehicles or parties involved in the accident.
  • The times and distances between all relevant events.
  • The speed of the vehicles at the time of the accident.

If you are involved in a collision with a parked vehicle and cannot find the owner, leave the relevant information on the windshield of the parked vehicle. The information should include your name, address and phone number and insurance particulars. The same information must be left if you hit private property such as a fence, bicycle or even a hedge. If you hit public property such as a stop sign or a street light post, the collision must be reported to the police immediately.

Any collision involving your vehicle must be reported even if you are not the driver. Report the collision to both the police and your insurance company as soon as you become aware of it. You could be fined up to $500 or 6 months imprisonment if you do not report it to the police. You do not have to speak to the other party’s insurance company about the accident, but you must cooperate with your own insurance company. Tell them about the damage to your vehicle and any injuries suffered. As a passenger, you may qualify for “no fault” benefits for certain medical expenses and loss of income. Other passengers and/or pedestrians may also qualify for such benefits under your policy.

If you think you have a claim for injuries as a result of the collision, contact a lawyer, or Lawyer Referral Service immediately. While the normal deadline for commencing a Court action of this type is 2 years, many claims will involve a shorter deadline.

It is an offence to drive without insurance on your vehicle in Alberta. However, where you are in an accident with a driver who has no insurance or by a hit-and-run driver, you may be compensated for your damages and injuries by the government’s Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund. The party without insurance must agree to repay the Fund. If the Fund is not repaid, driving privileges in Canada may be prohibited until the Fund is paid in full. Both parties to the accident may also agree to settle the matter without using the Fund or going to Court. You should consult with a lawyer if there is an agreement so that the proper releases for future actions on the same claim cannot be made.