Automobile accidents do happen, and they don’t always happen to someone else.
When they do, it’s reasonable to experience feelings of shock, anger, fear and confusion. This can lead to a great deal of stress for many drivers.
During such times of duress, motorists are expected to make snap decisions that will invariably impact the cost and quality of any collision repairs to their vehicle.
The problem is that too many motorists (experienced or not) are caught off guard and wind up making poor decisions.
They’ll often sign a waiver to have their vehicle towed to a collision repair facility recommended by someone else. In most cases, this could lead to additional cost in your claim, not to mention a great deal of stress in resolving the collision repair.
To avoid making poor decisions, motorists should take a proactive approach to auto collisions and know their lawful rights and responsibilities beforehand. By being prepared, motorists will ensure that any repairs to their vehicle are expedited correctly, efficiently and cost-effectively.
Here are seven important things you need to know before you become involved in an accident.
1. I highly recommend you do not sign a Tow Authorization Form. If presented with a form, read it carefully and understand it fully before you sign. You may be signing away your rights to where your vehicle is repaired.
Tow-truck drivers in Ontario are unregulated and some are mostly interested in serving their own interests. Instead, have your vehicle towed to a collision facility of your choosing.
If you don’t know where to have your vehicle towed, send it to your new-car dealer until you decide where the repairs will be performed.
2. Choose a collision repair facility with a reputation for quality workmanship and one that guarantees its work. Most new-car dealerships either have a facility on site, or they are affiliated with one.
Another advantage in choosing a registered new-car dealership for collision repairs is that their knowledge of your make and model can be counted on to restore your vehicle to its pre-accident condition. Remember, the choice is yours.
3. If total damages to all vehicles exceed $1,000, call the police. If your vehicle isn’t drivable, make arrangements to have it towed to the nearest Collision Reporting Centre.
4. Are you familiar with Collision Reporting Centres? If the damage to your vehicle exceeds $1,000, you must arrange to have the vehicle brought to the nearest reporting centre within 24 hours.
After the vehicle arrives, it will be inspected by a police officer, and the driver will complete a government collision report form. For a directory of Reporting Centres in Ontario, go to collision-reporting-centre.com.
5. Be prepared to exchange information. Regardless of the extent of the vehicle damage or whether there are personal injuries, obtain the appropriate information (name, address, phone number, insurance company and policy number) from all parties involved, including witnesses.
A downloadable copy of an accident worksheet is available at autoinsurance.gov.on.ca.
6. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after an accident. Inform them that you prefer repairs are made using original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, which are engineered for your brand and model.
However, some insurance providers will write a stipulation into a policy, insisting that non-OEM parts be used, particularly once a vehicle has reached a certain age or mileage. Read the fine print on your insurance policy to understand what type of replacement parts your policy covers.
7. Be prepared for any emergency on the road. Motorists who plan on travelling long distances or into remote areas should include safety items in their vehicle, such as a first-aid kit, booster cables, blanket, bottled water, flashlight, matches and cellphone.
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