What to do after a motor vehicle accident

'If you are involved in an accident, or are a witness to one, it can be confusing and frightening. However, assuming you are able to, here are some important steps you should take on the scene, and in the days directly following the accident'

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Forward Law LLP stock photo.

With the Trans-Canada at our doorstep, car accidents are constantly in the Revelstoke news. If you are involved in an accident, or are a witness to one, it can be confusing and frightening. However, assuming you are able to, here are some important steps you should take on the scene, and in the days directly following the accident:

1. Resist the urge to apologize. One piece of advice you may have heard is to not admit fault for the accident. As Canadians, we have a world-famous propensity to apologize. In an accident situation, it may not be immediately apparent who is at fault, and it’s best to wait for ICBC to make a determination of who is at fault, and resist the urge to apologize.

2. Call 911. If someone is injured, or if the vehicle damages look to exceed $1000, call 911. When in doubt, it is best to phone 911 from the accident scene and let the police decide whether they will attend or not.  Of course, the first priority is to ensure that everyone at the scene has the medical attention they need, and this call will ensure that emergency services are set in motion.

*Please note that if you decide not to call 911 because the accident is very minor (no damage), you still must exchange information with the other parties before leaving the scene, and you still must report the accident to ICBC.  Not doing so is a breach of the Motor Vehicle Act and could be seen as breach of your insurance contract with ICBC.

3. Document the scene. If possible, documenting the scene of the accident should also be a top priority. Since almost everyone has a camera at hand these days, thoroughly documenting an accident should be relatively easy.

If possible, use your cell phone to take photos of:

  1. the other driver’s license;
  2. their insurance papers;
  3. the accident scene;
  4. damage to the vehicles;
  5. any skid marks or debris on the road;
  6. the other driver’s license plate; and
  7. witnesses’ ID (if they consent).

In addition to the above, make a note of the addresses and phone numbers of those involved and any witnesses. Also note the names of any police officers and emergency personnel involved. Record the location, the weather conditions, and any other relevant observations.

4. Report the accident to ICBC. Within 24 hours, you must report the accident to ICBC either by phone at 1-800-910-4222 or thru their online reporting system at icbc.com, regardless of the accident type. Your rights could suffer if you fail to report it within the time limit. Even if ICBC is not the insurer of the vehicles involved, you must report it to them if the accident occurs within BC. This stage is the initial reporting stage where ICBC gathers the general accident details.

*Please note that the representative for ICBC will record what you say or write and can use that information in any future legal action, so be very careful at this early stage about what statements you make to ICBC.  Stick to the details you know, don’t guess. This initial stage is very basic.

5. Get medical attention. If you were injured in the accident, and were not taken to the hospital by ambulance, make an appointment to go see your doctor.

6. Get legal advice. When you are ready, speak to a lawyer. Many lawyers provide free consultations on personal injury cases. A lawyer can advise you of your rights and responsibilities, deal with the insurance company on your behalf, and can help you get fair compensation from your insurer.

This column was co-written by Forward Law Lawyers Robyn Goldsmith and Alana Hughes.