How Serious Must An Accident Be to Require Reporting to the Police?
Where a Person Was Injured or Where There Appears More Than $2,000 In Damage, Reporting the Accident Is Legally Required. Upon Conviction For Failure to Report An Accident a Driver May Be Fined Up to $1,000 Plus Victim Surcharge and Court Cost As Well As Receiving Three Demerit Points and Potentially Significant Insurance Rate Increases.
Understanding How to Defend a Traffic Ticket Charge of Failing to Report An Accident to Police Including Potential Penalties
Following an accident, unless merely a very minor accident, the law requires that the accident must be reported "forthwith" to the police. Where drivers involved in an accident fail to report the accident "forthwith, the drivers may be charged.
When Must An Accident Be Reported to Police
When any person is injured, or where the damage reasonably appears as more than two thousand ($2,000) dollars, an accident must be reported to the police as in accordance to requirements stated within section 199(1) or section 199(1.1) of the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8 as well as the regulation as applicable thereto. Specifically, it is stated:
Duty to report accident
199 (1) Every person in charge of a motor vehicle or street car who is directly or indirectly involved in an accident shall, if the accident results in personal injuries or in damage to property apparently exceeding an amount prescribed by regulation, report the accident forthwith to the nearest police officer and furnish him or her with the information concerning the accident as may be required by the officer under subsection (3).
Officer may direct person to report accident at another location
(1.1) If, on reporting the accident to the nearest police officer under subsection (1), the person is directed by the officer to report the accident at a specified location, the person shall not furnish the officer described in subsection (1) with the information concerning the accident but shall forthwith attend at the specified location and report the accident there to a police officer and furnish him or her with the information concerning the accident as may be required by the officer under subsection (3).
Where person unable to report
(2) Where the person is physically incapable of making a report and there is another occupant of the motor vehicle, the occupant shall make the report.
As above, where an accident involves injury or damage appearing as beyond two thousand ($2,000) dollars, the drivers, among others, involved are required to report the accident to the police. Interestingly, whereas section 199(1) and section 199(1.1) omit references to "highway", or any other definition as to where a reportable accident must occur, it appears that any incident must be reported if the injury or damage criteria are met. This view was expressly confirmed by the Court of Appeal in the case of R. v. Hajivasilis, 2013 ONCA 27 where it was said:
 I agree with the position advanced by the appellant. I would hold that the obiter in Shah limiting the operation of the "entire HTA" to "highways" is wrong and should not be followed. Many provisions of the HTA are by their terms limited to "highways". Other provisions, however, are not so limited. Nothing in the overall structure of the HTA or its purpose compels the reading of the word "highway" into sections in which it does not appear. Section 199 is one such section. I would hold that the reporting requirement in s. 199 generally applies even if the accident does not occur on a "highway" as defined in the HTA.
As shown above, regardless of where the accident occurs, the law clearly states that when the injury or damage criteria are met, the accident must be reported; and as such it is irrelevant whether the accident occurred on private property, rather than a highway or roadway; and accordingly, among other places, a qualifying accident must be reported even if the accident occurred within a mall parking lot or even if the accident occurred within a residential driveway or inside a garage.
How to Defend Against a Failing to Report an Accident Charge
As shown by the law as cited and summarized above, the offence of failing to report an accident involves the failure to report the accident "forthwith" whenever injuries or damage exceeding two thousand ($2,000) dollars occurs. As such, among other things, to successfully defend against a failing to report an accident charge, such can be accomplished by raising a reasonable doubt that:
- The driver charged was actually involved in the alleged accident;
- The driver charged knew, or ought to know, that an injury occurred;
- The driver charged knew, or ought to know, that damage exceeded $2,000 in total value; or
- The driver charged failed to act "forthwith" in contacting the police.
What Happens When a Driver Is Convicted of Failing to Report An Accident
214 (1) Every person who contravenes this Act or any regulation is guilty of an offence and on conviction, where a penalty for the contravention is not otherwise provided for herein, is liable to a fine of not less than $60 and not more than $1,000.
Accordingly, as is provided above, a driver convicted of failing to report an accident is subject to a maximum fine of one thousand ($1,000) dollars. Furthermore, on top of the fine, a mandatory victim surcharge is also applied as prescribed within the Victim Fine Surcharges, O. Reg. 161/00 and the driver will also accumulate three demerit points per the Demerit Point System, O. Reg. 339/94 as well as being subjected to the strong possibility of insurance rate hikes.
Reporting an accident to the police is mandatory when a person is injured or there appears more than $2,000 in damage. Failing to report an accident may result in a fine of up to $1,000 plus statutory victim surcharge and court cost. Additionally, the convicted driver receives three (3) demerit points and likely incurs significant increase in insurance rates.