What to do if you are in a Motor Vehicle Accident

The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide general information on legal issues within the Province of Alberta. The purpose of this topic is to inform you of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.

This topic will discuss what you should do if you are involved in a motor vehicle collision. The information contained in this topic is not intended to be nor should it be used as a complete explanation of what to do if you are in a motor vehicle accident.

First, make sure you stop where it is safe and turn on your hazard lights if possible, otherwise you may be subject to penalties or criminal prosecution. Proceed by assessing the situation and ensuring safety. Always cooperate with the police. Give them, or anyone who suffers from loss or injury due to the accident your name, address, driver’s license number, the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle, registration number of the vehicle and all information from the insurance card. You may want to take pictures, if possible.

Even if the collision was your fault, do not admit anything to the police or the other driver. Do not argue with the other driver and remain calm. Assault charges often arise at the scene of an accident. Do not argue with the police. If you believe you are innocent of the charges, argue your case in the Court. You are usually required to give a written account of the incident to the police. The statement is not producible in any Court proceeding as it is a privileged statement.

If the collision is serious, remain at the scene of the collision and wait for the police. If you fail to remain at the scene, you could be charged with a traffic or criminal offence. Call the police and explain the situation. They will let you know whether you should remain at the scene or come to a police station to make a statement. If someone is injured, you must remain at the scene until the police arrive. Do not move your vehicle until the police permit you to do so. Even if there are no injuries, you may want to wait until the police arrive and examine the scene. If there is a dispute about who is at fault or the other driver seems to be drinking, it is also imperative that the police attend the scene.

If damage to any vehicle amounts to approximately $2,000 (as of January 1, 2011), or more, you should remain at the scene until the police arrive. You will also be required to file a Collision Report. If you believe the damage is less than $2,000, call the police and ask them if you should remain at the scene or go to the police station. You should attend at the police station within 1 day of the collision.  Auto-body shops are not allowed to repair a vehicle with an estimated damage over $2,000 unless the vehicle has an “accident sticker” on it.  The police will provide you with a sticker to attach to the windshield of the vehicle after a written report has been provided to them of the incident.

Generally, there is no legal duty to help strangers, but in some situations, you may have a legal duty to provide or get medical help. If you help any injured persons at the scene of an accident, you will not be responsible for injury or death caused by your help, unless you are grossly negligent or use extremely improper care.

Gather as much information as you can about the collision scene. Get the names, addresses and phone numbers of all parties and witnesses. The other driver must give you their name, address, phone number and insurance information. If the witnesses or other drivers involved in the accident do not remain at the scene, write down or take a photo of their license plate numbers, a description of them, and their vehicle. You can find out who the owner is from your local Motor Vehicle Registry office.

Write down your version of the events as soon as possible and ensure to include the following details:

  • The date, time and exact location of the accident.
  • The direction that each vehicle was travelling.
  • The weather and road conditions.
  • The names of any ambulance personal who attended.
  • The names and badge numbers of the police officers who investigated.
  • The names and addresses and phone numbers of witnesses.
  • Anything that you observe, and think is unusual about the other vehicles or parties involved in the accident.
  • The times and distances between all relevant events.
  • The speed of the vehicles at the time of the accident.

If you are involved in a collision with a parked vehicle and cannot find the owner, leave the relevant information on the windshield of the parked vehicle. The information should include your name, address and phone number and insurance information. The same information must be left if you hit private property such as a fence, bicycle or even a hedge. If you hit public property such as a stop sign or a street light post, the collision must be reported to the police immediately, even if the damage is less than $2,000.

Any collision involving your vehicle must be reported even if you are not the driver. Report the collision to both the police and your insurance company as soon as you become aware of it. You could be fined up to $500, or 6 months imprisonment if you do not report it to the police. You do not have to speak to the other party’s insurance company about the accident, but you must cooperate with your own insurance company. Tell them about the damage to your vehicle and any injuries suffered. As a passenger, you may qualify for “no-fault” benefits for certain medical expenses and loss of income.  Other passengers and/or pedestrians may also qualify for such benefits under your policy.

If you think you have a claim for injuries as a result of the collision, contact a lawyer, or use the Lawyer Referral Service immediately, toll-free at 1-800-661-1095.  While the normal deadline for commencing a Court action of this type is 2 years, it is important to be aware that many claims will involve a shorter deadline.

It is an offence to drive without insurance on your vehicle in Alberta. However, where you are in an accident with a driver who has no insurance or by a hit-and-run driver, you may be compensated for your damages and injuries by the government’s Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund. The party without insurance must agree to repay the Fund. If the Fund is not repaid, driving privileges in Canada may be prohibited until the Fund is paid in full. Both parties to the accident may also agree to settle the matter without using the Fund or going to Court. You should consult with a lawyer if there is an agreement so that the proper releases for future actions on the same claim cannot be made.

If you would like more information, you are encouraged to go online at www.alberta.ca/automobile-collisions-insurance.aspx. If you have specific questions about your insurance, you are asked to contact your insurance company directly, or the Office of Alberta Superintendent of Insurance, toll-free in Alberta at 310-0000 then dial 780-643-2237.


Dial-A-Law is a Calgary Legal Guidance public service project funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation.