In the course of handling Personal Injury matters, I have fielded a number of questions from clients who were confused about the Automobile Accident Claims process and this write up will attempt to explain the process, provide information on what to do if you are ever involved in an Accident and provide answers to some of the common questions.
If you are ever involved in a collision, the proper thing to do is to stop and assess the situation in order to determine the next steps. After the accident, you should refrain from moving anyone who appears to be injured until paramedics arrive, avoid standing in between 2 vehicles or behind your own vehicle to assess the damage, and unless your vehicle is not drivable, or you believe the Police will need to attend the scene to investigate the collision you should move your vehicle to the side of the road and away from traffic.
If you have to leave the vehicle as is because you are unable to drive it or because you are required to leave it as is to aid the Police, it is a good idea to exit the vehicle and move to a safe location a distance away from the road or freeway.
The Government of Alberta’s automobile collisions advice page specifies that:
Individuals involved in an accident are only required to call 911 if any of the following apply:
- Someone is seriously injured.
- You suspect someone at the scene has committed a criminal offence such as driving while under the influence.
It also states that persons involved in an accident are only required to report the accident to the Police if any of the following apply:
- Someone is injured.
- Any driver does not have the required documentation including a valid driver’s license, proof of vehicle registration, and insurance.
- If one or more of the vehicles is not drivable.
- If there is damage or impact to any traffic safety device, railroad sign or signal, a traffic signal of any kind, a parking meter, or any public property.
- If the total damage to the vehicles and property appears to be more than $2,000.
It is the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle to arrange to have the vehicle towed away from the scene of an accident and failure to do so will result in the police towing away the vehicle and designating it as abandoned.
After an accident, all drivers involved are required to exchange Full names and contact information as well as their insurance information. The Government of Alberta provides a worksheet that drivers are advised to print and keep a copy of in their glove compartments for use in case of an accident. A copy can be downloaded here: https://open.alberta.ca/dataset/a82c0149-f23a-40b6-af13-b8f32a7b3857/resource/833454a3-4e58-4181-bd2a-da84e33d08dd/download/what-to-do-after-an-auto-collision-summary-and-worksheet.pdf.
I always suggest to clients that they take a picture of the vehicle (especially the license plate number) and of the driver if he/she refuses to provide their information or attempts to drive away.
After the accident has been reported to the Police, the next step is to contact your insurance company to make a report. Insurance companies will typically send over claim forms for clients to fill out if they are unable to take down all of the information over the phone. If you do provide the information by phone, I would advise that you send a follow email so that there is a paper trail to document the notification. The claim forms are meant to help the Insurance company assess the insured’s entitlement to Accident Benefits as specified in the Automobile Accident Insurance Benefits and Diagnostic and Treatment Protocols Regulations.
Both documents are available to the Public and they specify that every Insurance Company undertakes to provide certain benefits to clients who sustain bodily injury or death directly or indirectly as a result of an accident arising from the operation of a motor vehicle. These benefits are referred to as Accident or Section B benefits and every occupant is entitled to claim them whether the policy on the vehicle they were driving or occupying has comprehensive or third-party coverage.
You do not also need to be the owner of the vehicle or the policyholder to be entitled to Accident Benefits as long as you were driving or a passenger in a vehicle involved in an Accident you would usually be entitled to Accident benefits if you are injured or killed.
One of the questions I get asked constantly is whether or not making a claim for Section B benefits will affect insurance premiums and unfortunately, this is a question only the Insurance company can answer.
Generally, insurance premiums go up when you make a claim but that depends on whether or not the Insurance company determines that the accident was your fault, the specifics of the claim, the policy endorsements (whether or not you have claims forgiveness), etc.
Contrary to public belief, in Alberta, the Police do not determine fault and they only make a determination as to whether a Criminal Code Offence has been committed so as to justify criminal charges, but the actual determination of fault is made by the Insurance Companies. If a party disagrees with the determination, they can make challenge the decision before the Provincial Court of Alberta.
If your Insurance Company determines that you are not at fault you are also entitled to make a claim against the at-fault party for any damages you have suffered as a result of the accident including compensation for pain and suffering, loss of wages, loss of housekeeping capacity and an amount for ongoing medical care to cover items like physical therapy for several months/years after the accident.
It is worthy of note that Alberta has a cap on minor injuries as defined under the Alberta Minor Injury Regulation and that an Insurance Company can require the claimant to attend an examination conducted by a Certified Examiner listed on the Certified Examiner Register (established under the Alberta Minor Injury Regulations).
Most insurance companies will offer the injured party a nominal sum in exchange for a quick resolution of the matter but in my experience, the amounts offered to self-represented parties are so much lower than they would ordinarily be entitled to.
I always advise clients who have been involved in automobile accidents to promptly retain a Lawyer to handle their Personal Injury Claim since Lawyers are more conversant with the Insurance Legislation and Regulations, so they are in a better position to handle the negotiations and possibly litigation to ensure the best possible outcome.
To ensure easier access to legal representation most Personal Injury Lawyers offer free consultations to potential clients and take on such matters on a contingency (No Settlement mean No Fee) basis so they charge a percentage of the amount the client receives as a settlement after the deduction of any disbursements they incurred in respect of the matter. If you would like some additional information or a free consultation in respect of an automobile accident, please contact me by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.