What to do after a car accident

Find out what your auto insurer needs to know after a collision.

How to report an accident or collision
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.

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