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Dealer’s Voice: What to do in a collision

Published April 19, 2013

In February, I wrote a column about collision repairs that was generally well received, but one issue in particular elicited some confusion. The issue centred on the responsibilities of drivers in the event of a collision.

Originally, I wrote, “If total damage to all vehicles exceeds $1,000, call the police. If your vehicle isn’t driveable, arrange to have your vehicle towed to the nearest Collision Reporting Centre.”

According to several readers, the next paragraph in that column seemed to contradict that advice. I wrote that if damage exceeds, $1,000, drivers are obligated to have their vehicle towed to a reporting centre within 24 hours.

One of the readers who alerted me to the confusion was Sgt. David Emigh of the Toronto Police Service, who works at the North Collision Reporting Centre. Emigh writes: “Our experience is that the public seems confused about this law (Duty To Report Accident).

“If you are involved in an accident anywhere in the province of Ontario, whether on public or private property, where there is total damage to both vehicles and/or property over $1,000 (which is just about every accident), or injury, you must report the accident to the police forthwith.

“The key word here is ‘forthwith,’ which means that you must report right away and you must report to the nearest police officer, meaning where the accident took place.”

Emigh says that in some instances, accidents occur in one place (say, Toronto), and drivers will go back to where they live and report the accident in a different jurisdiction. This is not what the law allows.

In other instances, drivers will report an accident to their insurance company and do not think they need to also report the accident to the police.

The law states:

199. (1) Every person in charge of a motor vehicle or street car who is directly or indirectly involved in an accident shall, if the accident results in personal injuries or in damage to property apparently exceeding an amount prescribed by regulation, report the accident forthwith to the nearest police officer and furnish him or her with the information concerning the accident as may be required by the officer under subsection (3). R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 199 (1).

Readers also wanted clarification on why drivers need to have their vehicles towed to these centres in the first place.

The purpose of the reporting centre is to allow police an opportunity to inspect any vehicle damage, and drivers the opportunity to complete a government collision report form, which is checked by a police officer. Towing charges are regulated by the reporting centre both from the accident to the reporting centre and then to the repair shop.

If the damage to both vehicles is less than $1,000 but a physical injury was incurred by either driver (or occupants), the vehicles must still be taken to a Collision Reporting Centre.

When an accident occurs, even with minor damage, the police and insurance companies need to know what happened, for the record, and in case further investigation is required by the police or by the insurance company.

If a “reportable” collision isn’t reported to a Collision Reporting Centre, there is no reliable record of what happened and both parties could resort to a “he said,” “she said,” situation.

After the report is completed, the driver can contact his/her insurance company and arrange to have the vehicle taken to a collision repair facility. This allows for the timely reporting of the collision to the insurance provider and an early resolution of the claim process.

If you are involved in an accident and in doubt about how to proceed, then call the police.

This column represents the view of TADA. Email president@tada.ca or visit tada.ca. Frank Romeo, president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association, is a new car dealer in the GTA.

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