Information for Consumers - What to do after an Auto Collision
Please note: This information is NOT a legal document and does NOT modify or replace your automobile insurance policy. For more information on your specific situation, speak to your insurance agent, broker, or company representative.
This information was last updated on December 17, 2010, to reflect an increase to the collision damage reporting threshold from $1,000 to $2,000, effective January 1, 2011 (see the Information Bulletin).
- What to do at the scene of the collision
- If you have been injured
- Getting your vehicle repaired
- Dealing with the other driver's insurance company
- Be prepared: keep an emergency kit
The following document contains a short summary of the information on this page, and a "Recommended Information to Collect after a Collision" form. We recommend that you print this document and keep it in your glove compartment, along with a spare pen. You will need Acrobat Reader to open this document, which is in PDF format. If you do not have Acrobat Reader, you may download this free program.
Click here for the Summary and Collision Worksheet Form (updated December 17, 2010).
If your vehicle is involved in a collision and you don’t stop, you may be subject to demerit points or criminal prosecution.
- If anyone is seriously injured, or
- If you suspect any other driver may be guilty of a Criminal Code offence, such as impaired driving.
If the police come to the scene, ask for a copy of their report or the file number they have assigned to it.
Do not move anyone injured in the collision — you may aggravate their injuries.
Do not stand in between two vehicles or behind the vehicle to inspect damage, as your safety could be jeopardized.
If your vehicle is drivable, there are no serious injuries and the area is safe, move your vehicle to the side of the road, out of traffic.
Failure to protect your vehicle from further damage after the incident, as far as reasonably possible, may limit the compensation provided by your insurance company.
In cases where there is a serious injury or a suspected impaired driver, vehicles need to remain where they are so the collision scene can be investigated.
If your vehicle is not drivable, turn on your hazard lights, or use cones, warning triangles or flares. All passengers should get out of the vehicle and walk to a safe place if they are not seriously injured.
REPORT TO THE POLICE
- If anyone is injured.
- If any driver does not have documentation such as a driver’s licence, registration or insurance.
- If one or more of the vehicles isn’t drivable.
- If the total damage to all the vehicles and property appears to be more than $2,000 (as of January 1, 2011), you must go to a police station and file a Collision Report Form. Failure to do so could result in demerit points or a fine. Note the file number the police have assigned to your report.
- If the driver is incapable of making the report, a passenger should file the report, or the owner of the vehicle upon learning about the collision.
- Auto body shops are prohibited from making collision-related repairs of more than $2,000 (as of January 1, 2011) to any vehicle that does not have a damage sticker. The sticker indicates that the collision has been reported to the police.
- Auto wreckers are prohibited from destroying a vehicle damaged in a collision without a police-issued damage sticker. These businesses are required to contact the police before doing any work on the vehicle if there is no sticker.
EXCHANGE CONTACT AND INSURANCE INFORMATION
Contact and insurance information should be exchanged with all other parties involved. Collect information about the collision and if possible, take pictures.
The Collision Worksheet will help you to remember the types of information you’ll need to record at the scene. Keep it in your glove compartment along with a spare pen.
If the driver of a vehicle is incapable of providing the information required, and there is a passenger capable, the passenger should provide that information.
If someone refuses to provide their information, document the licence plate number, vehicle description and driver description before they leave the scene.
After you have exchanged information with all parties involved:
- If your vehicle is not drivable - you must make arrangements for it to be removed from the road otherwise, a police officer may make those arrangements, and your vehicle will be deemed abandoned.
- If your vehicle is drivable - you can leave the collision scene.
If the collision involved an unattended vehicle or other property, you must notify the owner of any damage you may have caused. If you are unable to locate the owner, you must securely attach your name, address, phone number, driver’s licence number and licence plate number to the damaged vehicle.
If you damage or knock down any traffic safety device, railroad sign or signal, a traffic signal of any kind, a parking meter or any public property you must report the damage to the police immediately, even if the damages are less than $2,000 (as of January 1, 2011).
NOTIFY YOUR INSURER AND GET ADVICE
- After reporting the collision to the police, advise your insurance company, regardless of which driver was at fault, as soon as possible. Tell them the details of the collision, including any injuries and damages to vehicles or properties. You might have difficulty processing a claim if you are late contacting your insurer, or if you are found withholding details. If your claim is valid, your insurance company must settle it within the time limits stated in your policy.
- Police do not determine liability; this is determined in part by insurance companies. If you feel it is necessary, it can be challenged in the Provincial Court of Alberta. If the police lay charges as a result of the collision, this does not necessarily equate to who is liable for the collision.
- If your contact is by telephone, follow up with a letter outlining the details of your claim.
- Know the limits of your coverage. If you are not certain of what is and isn’t covered by your policy, ask your insurer. Some insurance companies may also connect you to a trained claim advisor to walk you through what to do, including how to deal with the other driver(s) involved.
See section "Getting Your Vehicle Repaired" for information on your right to choose service providers (i.e. repair shop, tow truck, or health care provider).
REMEMBER, IT IS ADVISED THAT YOU:
- Do not voluntarily assume liability, take responsibility, or sign statements regarding fault.
- Do not pay, or promise to pay, for damages at the scene of the collision.
- Do not agree to forget about the collision.
- Do not accept money or discuss any settlement.
If you have been injured in an automobile accident in Alberta, you are entitled to accident benefits coverage regardless of whether you were at fault for the accident. The benefits you receive depend on the type of injury you have:
- If your injury is a sprain, strain or a whiplash associated with
disorder I or II, your primary health care practitioner (chiropractor,
medical doctor or physical therapist) does not have to seek approval
of the insurer for payment for treatment of these injuries if you
provide notice of your claim and choose to follow the protocols. Your
primary health care practitioner will be able to bill the automobile
insurer for all treatment services outlined in the "Diagnostic
and Treatment Protocols" that are not covered by Alberta Health
Care Insurance. These protocols have been developed in consultation
with primary health care practitioners and are based on the best research
and evidence currently available.
- For all other injuries:
A) Submit receipts for eligible expenses not covered by Alberta Healthcare Insurance to your extended healthcare benefits coverage provider (e.g. Blue Cross, health spending account or similar extended health care benefits plan) for reimbursement.
B) If the following applies you may submit invoices for eligible expenses to your automobile insurer for payment.
- You do not have extended health care benefits coverage.
- Your extended health care benefits coverage is exhausted.
- Your extended health care benefits coverage does not meet the full cost of eligible expenses.
- See a Primary Health Care Practitioner (chiropractor, medical doctor, physical therapist) as soon as possible for an assessment of your injury and, if needed, treatment advice.
- File an injury accident report with the police.
- Complete a Notice of Loss and Proof of Claim Form and retain a copy for your records and send the original signed form(s) to the insurance company. If you are unable to send the form within the following timeframes, submit it to your insurance company as soon as practicable and explain the reason for the delay.
- You will be contacted about the benefits you are entitled to receive after the insurance company reviews your completed form. If your insurance company needs any additional information in order to process your application, they will contact you.
If you have further questions about the Notice of Loss and Proof of Claim Form, the process, or your benefits, please contacts your claims adjuster. If you do not know who your claims adjuster is, contact your insurer.
Check with your agent or broker to confirm the type of coverage you have.
If the damage to the vehicle is covered by your insurance, the following steps will assist you.
If you are claiming from your own insurance company, ask the company for a proof of loss claim form. Complete, sign, and submit this form to the company as soon as possible to avoid delay in settling your claim.
- Before your vehicle can be repaired, you and your insurer need to know how much the repairs will cost.
- Your insurance company may accept the repair shop’s estimate of the damage, or may want to appraise the damage to the vehicle. The company has the right to initially assess the damages to your vehicle and estimate the cost to repair them. Because the quality and extent of the repairs will affect the value of your vehicle, you may wish to be present if the insurer’s appraiser meets with the body shop manager to discuss the repair job.
- If your vehicle is drivable, take your vehicle and a copy of the insurance company’s appraisal to the repair shop of your choice.
- If the vehicle is not drivable, or it was towed from the collision scene, contact your insurance company so that suitable arrangements can be made.
- Only one estimate is required. However, you may decide to get more than one, in order to compare prices and opinions about the extent of repairs. If you do get a second estimate and it is different, find out why. Be aware that the lowest price is not always the best deal. Look for a shop that has a reputation for high quality work and a written guarantee.
An estimate of costs should specify:
- what repairs are being done,
- whether parts are being repaired or replaced,
- whether new or second-hand parts are being used, and
- whether parts from the original manufacturer or generic parts are being used. If the body shop plans to use generic parts, compare the warranty provided to that offered on parts from the original manufacturer.
- You have the right to have your vehicle’s damage estimated and repaired at the auto body shop of your choice. When you select the shop, the responsibility for a satisfactory repair job rests with you, not the insurer. Any dispute about the quality of the repair or the collision shop’s guarantee or warranty is a contractual matter between you and the repair shop. So, it is in your best interest to shop carefully for a body shop. Once you have chosen a shop, notify your insurance company.
- You have the right to choose a service provider even if you have an adjuster.
- The following associations may be approached for a list of their members-in-good-standing in your area:
To ensure quality of service, check whether the shop you are dealing with is licensed. A list of licensed shops is available at the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council website.
- An insurance company cannot require that your vehicle be repaired at a specific repair shop. However, an insurance company can recommend that the damage be estimated and repaired at a specific repair shop.
- When an insurance company states or implies that they guarantee repairs if you take your vehicle to a shop they choose ask about the details of that guarantee and ask to see the written guarantee. Often, an insurance company’s guarantee is actually the shop’s guarantee, and the responsibility for a satisfactory repair job will remain a contractual matter between you and the shop – just as if you had chosen the shop.
- In some cases, your insurer may, by giving you a formal notice in writing, exercise its right to repair your vehicle. In such a case, your insurer may assume complete control of the repair process and have the vehicle repaired where they choose. By doing so, your insurance company assumes final responsibility for a satisfactory repair job and must restore the damaged vehicle to its condition prior to the collision with no additional cost, other than stated in the policy or as otherwise allowed by law.
- The insurance company has the legal option to repair or replace your vehicle. If the company takes this option, it must give you written notice within seven days after receiving your Notice of Loss and Proof of Claim Form. In this case, the company is responsible for insuring the quality of either the repairs or the replacement.
- Find out who sets the repair standards such as who decides whether the repair has been properly completed. Find out who will re-do the work if you are unsatisfied with the repair.
- The shop will ask you to sign a work order authorizing the repairs. Make sure it specifies all the details outlined in the estimate. Any changes or additions to the job and the related costs should be written on the work order. Your signature on the work order means that you are ultimately responsible for the invoiced costs.
- Make sure that your insurance company agrees to pay for all repairs before you have the work completed. Find out how your insurer handles supplemental repairs just in case the repair shop finds more damage to your vehicle that was not at the original estimate. You might need to submit an official receipt from the repair shop with your insurance claim.
- Once the repairs are done, check them over. You may decide to have an independent party look at them. If you are not satisfied with the repairs, discuss the problem with the body shop manager. If the problem isn’t resolved, notify your insurance company.
- There are several methods of paying the bill. You are responsible for paying the amount of the deductible, as noted in your insurance contract. The insurance company may forward to you the rest of the money to pay the body shop. Or the insurance company may pay the shop directly. A third possibility is the insurance company may send a cheque jointly paid to you and the body shop.
- Once the shop has been paid, or when the insurance company has confirmed it will pay on your behalf, you can take your vehicle home.
- If the amount of damage to your vehicle is being disputed, or other disagreements arise over your vehicle’s repair, and all attempts to negotiate have failed, a formal arbitration process is open to you.
- If you choose to follow this procedure, you will be responsible for your share of the cost involved.
- To start the appraisal procedure, submit a proof of loss claim form available from your insurer and send a written request to your insurance company
- A three-member group will resolve the dispute. You choose an appraiser, your insurance company chooses one, and the two appraisers appoint an umpire. An appraiser can be anyone either party considers to be qualified to present its side of the dispute. Each side pays for its own appraiser and half the cost of the umpire. The decision of any two of these three people is binding.
If the other driver caused the collision, you have two options:
- You may claim under your own collision coverage, if you carry
it. Your company will pay your claim, then deal with the other insurance
company. Be sure to ask if your premium will be affected if you
claim on your own policy. With this option, you may have to pay
your deductible up front, but you can attempt to recover it from
the other insurance company or the other driver.
When you claim on your own policy, the appraisal process is available to you.
- You may claim directly against the other driver through his or her insurance company. If you wish to do this, notify that company after contacting your own insurance company. Many of the steps listed above still apply. You select a body shop and obtain an estimate, but your dealings are with the other company. However, if you choose this option, the provision for formal appraisal does not apply.
The other driver’s insurance company may ask you to sign a release form before paying you or the body shop you have chosen. When you sign a release form, you discharge the other person and his or her insurance company from any further liability to you. It is a final payment. Read the form carefully to make sure that you are releasing only the claims for which you have settled. If your claim has not been finalized with regard to personal injuries you suffered in the collision, make sure the form does not release liability for your injury. You may wish to consult a lawyer.
If the other driver refuses to file a report with his or her insurance company, the company may deny your claim unless you sue the driver in court and get a judgment.
Always keep a basic emergency kit in your vehicle. You can easily create an emergency kit by filling a plastic storage container with the following:
- a basic first aid kit,
- a tire repair kit and pump,
- a disposable camera,
- a small tool kit,
- emergency road flares,
- a towel, warning triangles or cones,
- a pair of work gloves,
- a fire extinguisher,
- some type of nonperishable food,
- hand wipes,
- a flashlight and extra batteries,
- bottled water,
- booster cables, and
- a thermal blanket.