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Car accident or breakdown? Here’s what to do

What should I do if I’m in a car accident?

We take safety precautions on the road, like using seatbelts, keeping a safe distance from other vehicles and maintaining our engines and tires. But sometimes the unexpected happens. If you or someone you know is involved in an accident, or if a car breaks down, use these tips to stay safe and manage the situation.

8 steps to follow if you’ve been in a car accident

  1. Stay calm. If you can, take these first steps to secure your vehicle and your safety:

    • Turn off the ignition, activate the hazard lights and set the parking brake.

    • When you get out, check your surroundings and keep away from moving traffic.

    • If there are downed power lines, remain in your vehicle until the authorities arrive.

  2. Get help. Call 911 if emergency medical assistance is needed. While waiting, keep injured people warm; don’t move them unless they are in danger.

  3. Limit discussion. When speaking to other drivers, avoid apologizing, discussing fault or making snap decisions. Review the accident details with only the police and your insurance company.

  4. Gather info. Once you know everyone is OK, or emergency help has arrived, gather information to file an accident report. You’ll need to collect details like:

    • The date, time and location of the incident. It’s also a good idea to sketch a map of the scene.

    • Each driver’s name, driver’s licence number, licence plate number, insurance company name and policy number.

    • The makes and models of the vehicles involved.

    • The names and contact information of passengers and witnesses.

  5. Take pictures. Include all vehicles and damage, the accident scene, and the driver’s licences, insurance cards and licence plates of all parties involved.

  6. Move your vehicle. If you can do so safely, move your car out of the traffic flow. If it’s damaged and you need a tow, here are some things to consider:

    • You don’t have to hire the first truck on scene. You can choose any towing company.

    • Get the tow company’s name, address and contact number.

    • Read all documents carefully before signing to avoid committing to repairs or other charges.

  7. File a report. Call the police, if they aren’t on scene, to report the collision (even for minor incidents). Depending on the location and the extent of the damages, you may have to attend a Collision Reporting Centre.

  8. Contact your insurer. They’ll advise you on important next steps. You may be able to submit your claim and upload photos online.

Never leave the scene of an accident. If the other driver leaves, write down their licence plate number so the authorities can locate them. Take a picture or video, if necessary.

A guide to coping with a vehicle breakdown

A car breakdown can be a major inconvenience. It can also put you in a dangerous situation, leave you stranded or cause an accident. Here’s what to do if your car starts showing signs of trouble or breaks down completely:

At the first sign of trouble, maneuver your vehicle toward the side of the road.

Put on your hazard lights when you're off the road. If it's dark outside, turn on your vehicle's interior light as well.

Change flat tires in a safe place. Drive your car further off the road if necessary. Once you’re safe and out of traffic, change your tire as you normally would.

Call for help. If you're unable to fix your car, get professional help or call the police. Don't flag down other drivers.

Stay inside your vehicle with the doors locked, but make sure exhaust fumes aren’t getting inside.

Consider walking if help is nearby, but don’t put your safety at risk. Keep as far away from traffic as possible.

Keep an emergency kit inside your car. A breakdown kit can include a flashlight, flares, a warm blanket, bottles of water and other necessities.

Learn to do basic car repairs, such as how to connect the battery, check the oil and radiator fluid, and change a tire.

Need to make a car accident claim?

For all Auto (including windshield) claims, you can make a claim through Co-operators Online Services. Download our mobile app for fast, convenient and secure access, available through The App Store and Google Play. You can also call or visit your financial representative, or call 1-877-NU CLAIM. In Quebec, call 1-877-594-2667.

If you qualify for Accident Forgiveness, you may be covered if it’s your first accident. Remember, with our Claims Guarantee, you can call us for risk-free claims counselling.