Wheels’ Eric Lai answers readers’ auto questions every week for Wheels.
Q: When does a parking lot car crash have to be reported to police?
A: Ontario Transportation Ministry spokesperson Bob Nichols replies:
The Highway Traffic Act sets out various responsibilities for drivers involved in a collision. If a collision occurs in a parking lot (i.e. private property), the driver must report it to police if it results in personal injuries or in damage apparently exceeding $1,000 total. Individuals involved in a collision are advised to call police first to ensure that police presence is not required.
Additionally, the HTA requires that you report any collision involving a fatality, and/or damage to public property on a highway (e.g. light pole).
Eric Lai adds:
You should call police to report any collision involving spilled loads, spilled fuel, hazardous materials, fire, criminal activity (e.g. stolen vehicle, drunk driver), injured wildlife (e.g. impact with deer), or other imminent hazard (e.g. ruptured gas main).
If a crash on private property results in a dangerous condition that does not require an immediate 911 response, such as spilled oil/coolant or a light pole in danger of falling over, notify the property owner so they can cordon off the area for safety.
For a non-reportable collision with damage under $1,000 that occurs on private property, if the owner of the vehicle struck isn’t known, you can leave a note on the windshield with your contact information for insurance purposes. But if you’re afraid you might be accused of hit-and-run, you can notify police of the incident and the plate number or VIN (if unplated) of the vehicle struck.
I mention unplated vehicles as parking lot owners, or hired maintenance contractors, often leave unplated plow trucks and snow removal equipment parked on site. Additionally, car owners sometimes abandon old vehicles in parking lots.
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