The First Steps to Take Immediately After a Car Accident
Often, when you are involved in a motor vehicle accident, the element of shock or injury may prevent you from making logical decisions. If possible, try to preserve the evidence as much as possible because you never know what will come in handy.
While at the accident scene, it is helpful if you can obtain the following information:
- Obtain the names, addresses, phone numbers and driver’s license numbers of all parties involved in the accident, regardless of who is at fault for the accident and how minor the accident is;
- Have a look at the insurance of each of the motor vehicles involved in the accident so as to get the names of the registered owner and the insurance details;
- Look at the other parties’ driver’s license to avoid being given false information;
- Write down the plate numbers, including Province, of all the vehicles involved in the accident by looking at the license plates and registration;
- If a motor vehicle involved in the accident is registered outside British Columbia make sure you get the name of the insurance company;
- Find out the names and contact information of any witnesses;
- Take some pictures of the vehicles and their resting positions; and
- Take some notes about how the accident happened and draw a sketch of the accident scene.
The Motor Vehicle Act requires all individuals involved in a motor vehicle accident to remain at the accident scene, to render assistance and to exchange vehicle registration and license information with all parties involved in the accident. The Motor Vehicle Act also requires those involved in the accident to report the accident to the local police force within 24 hours in urban areas and within 48 hours in rural areas. The need to report only applies if the damages exceed $1,000 ($600 if a motorcycle is involved). When in doubt, it is best to simply report the accident to the police as soon as possible. Indeed, it is good practice, unless the accident was extremely minor and all parties agree to exchange information and leave the scene, to call the police from the accident scene. If it is a relatively minor accident without injuries, the police likely will not attend the accident scene but if it is more serious, with injuries involved, the police will attend the accident scene.
Note that if you leave the scene of the accident without reporting to the police and/or exchanging information with the other parties, you may be charged under the Motor Vehicle Act or may be held in breach of your contract of insurance with ICBC. The later result could cost you thousands of dollars when ICBC comes after you for the money they pay out under a claim.
Of particular note, if you are in a single vehicle accident, especially at night, the last thing you should do is walk from the scene. ICBC will assume you have something to hide like impaired driving and may breach you of your contract of insurance. The better approach is to call the police and wait for their instructions.