Nunatsiaq Online
COMMENTARY: Nunavut August 10, 2017 - 2:30 pm

Legal Ease, August 10

What to do when you're involved in a vehicle accident

JAMES MORTON

What should you do right after a car accident?

If there are injuries, immediately call for the help – you need to report all but the most trivial accidents to the RCMP anyway.

If help is unavailable do what you can to provide first aid to anyone who is hurt – but unless you are a trained professional be cautious and don’t, for example, move someone with a neck or back injury unless it’s absolutely critical.

As a legal matter, it is important that you don’t discuss fault with anyone or apologize for the accident.

Be polite to the other driver. Cooperate with the RCMP. If they ask you to take a sobriety test—or blow a breath test—do so, but ask to speak to a lawyer right away.

Anything you say to anyone can be used against you later in court so say as little as possible—for example saying “I was drinking earlier today but am pretty sober now” is not a good idea.

While you must show your licence to drive, proof of insurance and do sobriety tests, you are not obliged to make a formal statement to the RCMP and you are allowed—politely of course—to decline to answer questions.

At the scene of the accident, make sure there is no existing danger—so if it is dark and you are on a road put on flashers so other drivers will see you.

Don’t leave the scene of the accident until the RCMP come and do their investigation. I have had cases where people run away from an innocent accident. They would not have faced any charges from the accident, but they did face charges for leaving the scene.

If you have a cell phone with a camera, take photographs of the scene and any damage.  Obviously, if the other people object, do not take pictures of them but otherwise take as many photographs as you can.

Make some notes. Was anyone in the car with you?  What was the weather like? What was the traffic like? Did the other driver (or anyone else) say anything?

Did anyone see the accident? If so, try to get their contact information.

If you have obvious injuries go to the health centre right away.  Even if you think you are totally okay you should get checked out. Some injuries (whiplash is the most common) are not immediately obvious, but can cause a lot of long term problems. 

After you take care of the immediate situation you should report the accident to your insurance company.  They should be told promptly of any accidents.

Don’t go on Facebook and start posting about what happened!  Whatever you say on Facebook can be used against you later if a court case comes up.

James Morton is a lawyer practicing in Nunavut with offices in Iqaluit. The comments here are intended as general legal information and not as specific legal advice.

 

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