What to do after a car crash?

On request, I am providing you with some tips on what to do after being in a car crash.

Car crashes are very frequent. You have likely been in one or know someone who has. I have been the victim of two crashes myself.

According to ICBC stats, a crash occurs in Kelowna approximately every hour and 2,700 people are injured in Kelowna car crashes every year.

Car crashes are totally avoidable, which is why I refer to them as ‘crashes’ (and NOT accidents).

Now, at this point, I could tell you to not drive aggressively, to slow down, and to not tailgate. But, everyone knows that already, right? (I wish that were true…) But, that’s not the point of this article.

Instead, this article is intended to give you some tips on what to do immediately after being the victim of a car crash (to protect your interests). This applies whether or not you are an occupant of a vehicle, a cyclist, or a pedestrian.

First, get the names, driver’s licence numbers, insurance information, and contact information (addresses and phone numbers) of all motorists involved in the crash.

Also, pay attention (and take note) of the behaviour/actions of the other motorists involved in the crash. Does the other driver look tired? Do they look impaired (by drugs or alcohol)? Were they wearing a seatbelt or wearing glasses?

These details could be CRUCIAL.

And don’t play games at the crash site – ensure that you identify yourself following the crash – it is a legal requirement.

Next, ensure that you get the names and contact information of any witnesses at the crash. This is VERY important – and is typically overlooked by most people. Taking two minutes to get witness information can save you A LOT of grief later.

Next, on a notepad, sketch the accident scene, indicating the direction of travel of other vehicles and the location of the vehicles after the crash. Then make a note of the traffic and weather conditions.

And remember that a picture is worth a 1000 words. Everyone carries a camera now (on their cell phone), so ensure that you take photographs of the crash scene and the other vehicles involved.

Also, report the crash to your insurance company and the police (assuming that police didn’t attend the scene).

Regarding your insurance, you should know that there are a number of time deadlines that exist (i.e. for reporting the crash or for providing a statement). If you don’t comply with those deadlines, you might not be entitled to particular benefits. So, it is important that you PROMPTLY report the crash. See s. 97 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation (B.C. Reg. 447/83).

While reporting your crash, though, you should be careful in providing a ‘statement’ on the details of how and why the crash occurred. Such statements can come back to ‘haunt’ you. For instance, when providing a statement, you might leave out an important detail or you may innocently recall something that wasn’t true. The insurance company (ICBC) might then try to rely on that statement/detail to argue that you were ‘at fault’ (either totally or partially) in the crash, thereby reducing the amount of money that they have to pay you.

So, what can you do? Put simply: speak to a lawyer PROMPTLY after the crash. The lawyer can help you prepare your statement and can help you navigate through all the other hurdles that exist in a personal injury file (that I don’t have room to discuss here).

With all this said, the best information that I can provide to any motorist is the following: be careful on the road.

**The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.

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About the Author

Jeff Zilkowsky is a lawyer practicing at MacLean Law in the Lower Mainland and in Kelowna, and focuses his practice on family law and litigation.  

In his column, Jeff provides information about current legal events or points of interest or concern relating to the law. 

The information contained in Jeff’s column should not be used or relied upon as legal advice.

Comments are always appreciated and encouraged, so don’t hesitate to email Jeff at [email protected]

Visit Jeff’s website at www.jeffzilkowsky.com or visit the website of MacLean Law.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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