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Car insurance claims: Dos and Don’ts

If you’re involved in a car accident, it’s vital to understand your insurance coverage and to know how to deal effectively with your insurance company. Here are some simple tips on staying covered.


DO report your claim as quickly as possible. If you take too long, your carrier could deny your claim.

DO check if you have coverage under more than one policy. You may also be covered under your homeowner policies, “umbrella” policies, or credit cards. 

DO document damages and your injuries. Take photos of cars involved, any injuries and the surrounding area. Write down any other information about accident.

DO take detailed notes about your interactions with the insurance company. Note each time you speak with the company and get names and job titles of the people you spoke with.

DO be honest with your insurer. You might be embarrassed or worried about being at fault but any inaccuracies or dishonesty could lead to your claim being denied. 

DO keep receipts and records for any expenses associated with accident, such as medical expenses, meals or car rentals.

DO be aware of “negative equity” — when the car is worth less than the amount you still owe on it. If your car is a totalled, your insurer may only cover the cash value of the car although you may owe more than that. 


DON’T provide any written or recorded statement to your insurer until you understand your coverage and feel prepared to do so. 

DON’T apologize. It may feel like a reflex, but an apology could sound like an admission that you’re at fault. This could come back to haunt you in a lawsuit or insurance claim.

DON’T automatically accept the insurance company’s estimate or appraisal of your loss or damages. The company may try to lowball you. Take time to fully explore those losses yourself. 

DON’T accept any cheque marked “final payment” from your insurer unless you’re absolutely ready to do so. 

Should you call the police?

Not every accident requires police on the scene, but you must must call if: 

  • Damages appear to be over $1,000 (can vary according to province);
  • Anyone was injured or killed;
  • A driver is impaired;
  • A driver is uninsured or unlicensed.
  • A pedestrian or cyclist is involved.
  • There’s damage to public or private property.

If it looks like a minor fender-bender, police involvement may not be necessary. Or you may not be sure; after all, what does $1,000 of damage look like? However, you can’t go wrong calling the police. Their report can be useful in determining liability in the accident.