Involved in a Motor Vehicle Collision? Here’s What to Do.

Woman holding neck and making a phone call after a motor vehicle collison.

I was involved in a fairly serious motor vehicle crash a few months ago.

Both I and my daughter are fine. The predictable soreness and stiffness set in, but all told it seems both we and the occupants of the car that pulled into our path are blessed to have been spared serious injury.

The more experiences I have that appear negative at first blush, the quicker I am to recognize them as opportunities for growth. That night was no different. As much as I wish the crash hadn’t happened, it has taught me lessons which will help me to relate to my clients, and defendants, even better. It was a valuable reminder of some of what collision victims experience in a crash and its aftermath, regardless of fault.

It was the first icy night of late fall. Driving anywhere near the speed limit was far too risky. We headed south very slowly on a downhill stretch of an arterial road here in Hamilton. Ahead, I saw a car stopped at a stop sign on a side street to my left. It gave me a bad feeling, so I kept my eye on it.

Sure enough, the car started to move forward, far too late to time the gap between my car and the one ahead of me. My daughter tells me that I muttered ”pleasestoppleasestoppleasestop”, but the driver didn’t. I did all I could to avoid the collision, but there simply wasn’t time nor space. In a flash, I considered trying to steer behind the car, but dismissed that idea for fear of a head-on collision with oncoming traffic or getting out of control sideways.  We each instinctively braced ourselves.

Airbags exploded after a heavy t-bone collision. The safety systems of my car each did their job perfectly (I’m Volvo for life after that!). After the shock of the crash, the airbags and the smoke produced by the explosive powder inflating them in a fraction of a second passed, we checked one another. Relieved not to be seriously injured, we got out and headed to the other car, which had taken heavy passenger side damage. The driver was in their early twenties and was very upset. They were hyperventilating and in shock so they became our focus.

I reassured them that mistakes happen and we were okay. The occupants of their car had escaped serious injury too. We all calmed them down, and immediately began to treat this as a shared trauma. I steered the conversation away from any discussion of fault; this wasn’t the time for that. The facts were what they were, and I saw no value in reminding a young driver of what had happened any more than necessary.

The wait for police to attend seemed endless. I used the time to take photos and make notes, and to occasionally check on the other driver and her passengers. While we waited, we were subjected to unhelpful advice, jokes and in some cases outright verbal abuse by passing drivers.

Of course, a few tow truck drivers arrived, suggesting that I allow them to move my car. Traffic was passing slowly, but steadily. I repeatedly declined. I wanted the police to see the cars where they came to rest, to see how the collision occurred. The police attended, were kind and considerate, our cars were towed (by the services of our choosing) and we went our separate ways. We checked on one another repeatedly over the next week or two.

I was fortunate. My daughter and I were unhurt, and she was remarkably calm. This won’t always be the case, so here’s a reminder of what to do if you’re ever in a serious collision.

What to Do If You’re in a Motor Vehicle Collision

  1. Take a moment to gather yourself. Unless you are somehow in danger, there is no rush and the calmer you can be for what follows, the better. Turn on your hazard lights.
  2. Check yourself and any passengers for injuries, particularly those requiring immediate medical attention. Serious cuts and head, neck and back injuries are examples, but use your conservative judgment with any others. If anyone is seriously injured, stay in your vehicle and call 911 for assistance from both an ambulance and the police.
  3. Collisions that result in personal injury or greater than $2,000 in property damage must be reported to the police.
  4. Exchange information with the other driver. This includes names, addresses, phone numbers, and insurance information.
  5. DO NOT admit fault or allow yourself to be drawn into an argument.
  6. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by tow truck drivers. Tows are very expensive, so before committing to one, contact your insurer and any service you may subscribe to which provides roadside assistance. Some car manufacturers do, and of course many Canadians are CAA members to protect them in this very situation.
  7. When the police attend, or if they advise you that they will not, follow their direction. If safe to do so and your cars are drivable, you’ll likely be told to move them to the side of the road. Mark them with reflective triangles or flares as needed.
  8. If possible before moving your car, take photographs, notes and sketches of how the collision occurred and of your surroundings.  If there are witnesses present, take down their names and contact information. If possible, even note what they say they saw and confirm their statements in writing or by email.
  9. When authorized by your insurer, or upon the arrival of a tow truck sent by your roadside assistance provider, your car must be towed directly to a collision reporting centre (CRC) unless the police on scene say otherwise. If the CRC is open, you should accompany your car there and provide the information requested at the CRC. If it is not, you should attend immediately during opening hours.

Being involved in a collision is emotional and can be deeply traumatic. Being as calm as possible regardless of fault will serve you well as you navigate the immediate aftermath and the days ahead. If you or your passengers are injured in any way, err on the side of caution and call Martin & Hillyer Associates. The first consultation with our personal injury lawyers is free and without risk.



About the Author

Ian Brisbin - Burlington Lawyer


Ian Brisbin has represented many clients in virtually all areas of personal injury law, including car accidents, accidents on property and long-term disability claims. Ian maintains a particular interest in the law as it relates to cyclists and accidents suffered by cyclists. He has appeared as trial and appellate counsel before all levels of Ontario Courts and has extensive experience advocating before various administrative tribunals.