Two cars in a bumper to bumper collision

Hollywood Car Crash vs Real Life

Over the last 16 months or so, and especially during the lockdown periods, I have found myself watching more movies than I used to. Recently, my wife and I discussed a joint pet peeve that characters often seem to act irrationally when faced with a real world event so that the plot can move forward. That led me to consider how movies have depicted motor vehicle accidents and the reactions of the characters who are involved in them. As a personal injury lawyer who represents people who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents, this topic is of particular interest to me.

I came across a 2002 movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck called Changing Lanes. The plot is that Ben Affleck’s character, a Wall Street lawyer, crashes his car into Samuel L. Jackson’s vehicle while rushing to attend at the court house. Ben Affleck’s character then attempts to pay Mr. Jackson’s character for the damage to his vehicle with a blank cheque in an effort to escape the scene as quickly as possible and without managing the claims through the characters’ insurance companies. Mr. Jackson’s character, who is insulted, refuses. Mr. Affleck’s character then drives away from the scene of the accident but leaves a crucial document behind that kicks off an entertaining but unrealistic cat-and-mouse dispute between the characters.

Fortunately, neither of the characters in the movie suffered injuries as a result of the accident. However, people involved in accidents often do not feel the true effects of the impact until hours or days afterward. It is also important to establish your version of events after an accident so that fault is properly attributed to the drivers. This is why it is extremely important for someone involved in an accident to take the proper steps to ensure they can protect their rights:

  1. Immediately after the accident, you should call an ambulance if someone has been injured. It is then crucial to capture the damage to the vehicles with photos. Unlike Mr. Affleck’s character, you must then exchange personal and motor vehicle insurance information with the other driver.
  1. You should then call the police to report the accident. In Ontario, if a person is injured in a motor vehicle accident or if the damage to the vehicles is in excess of $2,500, the accident must be reported immediately or at least within 24 hours. It also must be reported to police if there is damage to government owned property, such as light posts or guard rails.

    It is always preferable to report an accident, however serious, to establish proof that it occurred and to ensure that your version of the events is recorded in case there is a future dispute over the cause of the accident or injuries that resulted from it.
  1. Both parties must then report the accident to their motor vehicle insurance companies. In Ontario, a person involved in a motor vehicle accident is required to report the accident to their insurance company regardless of fault or whether someone was injured. In order to qualify for Statutory Accident Benefits, the report must be made within seven days of the accident.

This is also very important in the context of a hit-and-run accident, or where a driver cannot identify the person who collided with them, as occurred in Changing Lanes. It would be crucial for Mr. Jackson’s character to inform the police and his insurance company of the hit-and-run so that they would have the best possible opportunity to investigate the accident and identify the other driver.

If the driver or someone else travelling in their vehicle has been injured, it is essential that they contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to assist them with the often confusing and convoluted legal issues that may arise from the accident and their injuries.

Unfortunately for Ben Affleck’s character, his actions at the accident scene were entirely incorrect. Had he simply exchanged information and reported the accident, he would have been able to carry on with his very important court appearance. However, without providing any spoilers, he pays a dear price for his mistakes as the movie unfolds.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, please ensure that they do not make the same mistakes as Mr. Affleck’s character. Instead, have them call a personal injury lawyer who can assist them with their claims and recovery.

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