What are my obligations after a car accident in Ontario?

In Ontario, the Criminal Code and Highway Traffic Act (HTA) establish your obligations after a car accident. Failing to fulfill your obligations can result in charges under either law. Penalties for charges may include fines, jail, probation, and driving prohibitions.

Criminal Code charges are the more serious of the two and can lead to a criminal record.

Careless driving ontario 130 highway traffic act

What are my Criminal Code obligations?

The Criminal Code requires you to stop if you are driving a car involved in an accident. You commit failure to stop if you:

  • know or are reckless as to whether your vehicle was involved in a collision;
  • fail to give your name and address;
  • fail to offer assistance if someone has been injured or appears to require assistance; and
  • do not have a reasonable excuse for not giving your name and address or providing assistance.

You commit a separate offence of failure to stop resulting in bodily harm or death if you know or are reckless as to whether the accident resulted in bodily harm or death to another person.

What is recklessness?

Recklessness in this context can mean one of two things.

First, you do not know for sure whether you were in an accident. But you disregard that possibility and carry on with what you were doing. For example, you hear a very loud thud and just keep going.

Second, you do not know whether someone was injured or died in the accident. But you disregard those possibilities and carry on with what you were doing.

What is a reasonable excuse?

The answer to this question varies based on the unique facts of your case. One example of a reasonable excuse involved a driver who failed to stop after a cyclist they collided with punched the driver in the face. The Court concluded that the driver’s fear of injury was a reasonable excuse.

What is the penalty for failure to stop?

The maximum penalty for failing to stop is ten years imprisonment. This maximum increases to 14 years if the accident caused bodily harm and to life if it caused death.

Just because an offence has a maximum penalty does not mean a court will sentence you that harshly. Maximum sentences are rare in failure to stop cases. Penalties can be as lenient as fines and as high as imprisonment. There is a lot of room in between.

When bodily harm or death occurs, the minimum punishment is a $1000 fine for a first offence, 30 days imprisonment for a second offence, and 120 days imprisonment for each subsequent offence.

What are my HTA obligations?

If you are the driver in a motor vehicle accident, you must:

  • stop;
  • remain at the scene of an accident or return to the scene immediately;
  • check to see if everyone involved in the accident is ok;
  • render all assistance possible;
  • upon request, give your name, address, and insurance information to any person suffering a loss or injury;
  • report the accident to the police if someone is injured;
  • report the accident to the police if property damage appears to exceed $2000; and
  • report the accident to the police if it involves any door of the motor vehicle that is open or opening coming into contact with a cyclist, a bicycle or a moving vehicle, even if the motor vehicle is stationary, stopped or parked.

What is the penalty for violating my HTA obligations?

Every person who violates their HTA obligations is liable to a fine of not less than $400 and up to $2000. The maximum jail sentence is six months. The Ministry of Transportation may also suspend the person’s licence for up to two years.

The HTA requires me to speak to the police. What about my right to silence?

A compelled statement is inadmissible against you in a criminal proceeding. The prosecutor may use it against you when prosecuting a provincial offence.

If officers question you after an accident, you may ask them to clarify whether your statement is compelled or voluntary. If it is voluntary, you have a right to remain silent.

The accident was not my fault. Can’t I just leave?


The Criminal Code and HTA obligations apply regardless of who is at fault.

Most criminal defence lawyers will gladly speak to you if you face allegations of failing to fulfill your post-accident obligations. You can speak to a lawyer at no initial charge by calling (416)-999-8389.