If you’re an American who frequently visits Canada for business or pleasure, you may opt to take the scenic route and drive your own vehicle across the border. While Canadian roadway laws largely mirror those of the U.S. (other than the posting of speed limits in kilometres per hour rather than miles per hour), being involved in a serious accident while traveling on the Canadian side of the border may leave you wondering what to do next. If you’re planning a trip to Canada soon, read on to learn what you’ll need to do in the hours and days following a traffic accident to ensure you’re both adequately compensated and legally protected.
What should you do immediately following a crash?
Just as when you’re involved in an accident in the U.S., your first two phone calls should be to the police and your insurance agency. You’ll need an accident report to provide to your insurance company so that your vehicle can be repaired and costs can be assessed to the proper parties. If there are any injuries in the crash, the police can notify emergency medical services (EMS), who will quickly arrive at the scene.
Your third call may need to be a tow truck driver. In other cases, the police or EMS crew may notify the roadside towing crews themselves. If a tow truck doesn’t seem to be forthcoming, you’ll want to ask to ensure one is en route — don’t just leave your car at the scene and assume it will be towed. If your vehicle needs extensive repairs but you wish to keep it, you may be able to request that it be towed to a shop near the U.S./Canada border, where it can be picked up by an American tow truck and transported home. In other cases, your insurance company may simply declare your vehicle totaled and give you a check for its replacement value.
What should you do in the days after your accident?
After you’ve submitted a claim to your insurance agent, you may want to contact a Canadian-licensed attorney. If you were deemed to be at fault in the accident, the other driver(s) may sue you for any injuries or property damage not covered by your auto insurance policy. In most cases, the lawsuit will be filed in either the plaintiff’s home jurisdiction or the court in the city where your accident took place.
Because an American attorney who isn’t licensed to practice law in Canada won’t be able to appear in court on your behalf, you’ll need to seek the advice of either a Canadian attorney or an American attorney with a Canadian law license. This attorney will be able to advise you on the specific laws and procedures that govern your case, as the process may be different than you’re accustomed to in a U.S. court. For example, the maximum amount of punitive damages that can be assessed against you is approximately $340,000, unlike some U.S. jurisdictions where these damages may be uncapped.