Money & Career

What to do after a car accident

By: Helen Racanelli

Author: Canadian Living

Money & Career

What to do after a car accident

By: Helen Racanelli

A car accident can mean much higher future insurance premiums. And if you make a claim and are determined to be at fault, your premiums usually increase. (The amount depends on everything from your driving history to the extent of the accident.)

But how you handle the situation may also affect the increase. Here's what to do.

1. Report the accident.
Call your insurer the day of the collision, when events are still fresh, says Brian Maltman, the Toronto-based executive director of General Insurance Ombudservice, a free dispute-resolution service that helps consumers with insurance claims.

Provincial regulations may differ on how long you have to report an accident. For example, in Ontario you must contact your insurer within seven days or it needn't honour your claim. In British Columbia, auto insurance is handled by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), a government agency, and it's expecting your call ASAP.

The bottom line? Provinces and policies vary, so check yours to make sure that you're following the right procedures after you've been in an accident.

2. Nix the "Sorry – it was my fault."

"The determination of who's at fault is not one you should make on the spot," says Maltman. "It's the job of the insurance company to sort it out."

By claiming full responsibility for an accident that may not have been your fault, you prevent your insurer from acting in your best interests.

3. Tell the truth.

Tell your insurer everything that happened – "blow-by-blow and in as plain and unembellished a manner as possible," Maltman says.

If you lie or withhold info, you run the risk of being denied not only the amount of your claim, but also future insurance coverage. If you're convicted of insurance fraud, a federal crime, you could spend time behind bars.

Page 1 of 2 - If injuries are involved with your accident, find out what to do on page 2.
4. Don't say, "I'm not hurt!"
After an accident, adrenaline flows and you may feel fine, even though you could be injured and just not know it yet.

When you speak to your insurer, only talk about how you're feeling at that moment. If you're hurt, see a doctor or you won't be able to make a claim for it.

"Any claim for injury, whether apparent at the scene or later while we're handling your claim, is always based upon a medical practitioner's diagnosis and treatment records," says Adam Grossman, a spokesperson for ICBC.

5. Know what you're signing.
It's standard practice to sign an authorization releasing records from your doctor when there's an injury claim, and it's also expected that you will give a statement about the accident.

What's not standard, however, is being asked to sign a release saying you're not hurt, or that the accident was your fault.

If you have any doubt about what you're being asked to sign, says Maltman, contact the General Insurance Ombudservice (giocanada.org) or an attorney for advice.


This story was originally titled "Auto Immunity" in the July 2011 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!




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What to do after a car accident

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