Car accidents are no fun. Even if there are no injuries, car owners still have to file reports, start an insurance claim, work with a body shop, and arrange for a rental car. In addition, if you are determined to have been at fault for the accident, you may also see an increase in your insurance premium. This post will explore how much an at-fault accident will raise your insurance.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an at-fault accident?
Someone is always determined to be at fault for an accident. For single-driver accidents, such as taking the ditch or hitting a utility pole, it’s pretty easy to identify the driver who is at fault. Still, for multi-vehicle accidents, the process is a bit more complicated.
Insurance companies assign fault using the Fault Determination Rules as outlined in the Ontario Insurance Act. The Fault Determination Rules outline more than 40 accident scenarios and explain which driver is at fault and why with images and text.
The rules consider such causes of accidents as rear-ending the vehicle in front of you, improper left turns, and failure to yield right-of-way scenarios. Each scenario will indicate the percentage of fault assigned to each driver from 100% (fully responsible for the accident) to only 50% accountable or even 0% responsible.
For example, in a scenario where three or more vehicles are involved in rear-end collisions, the car at the front is assigned 0% fault. The vehicles in the middle are determined to be 50% at fault for not leaving enough space in front of them to react safely. Finally, the car that initiated the collision chain is determined to be 100% at fault.
Virtually every conceivable type of vehicle collision is considered in the Fault Determination Rules. The rare exceptions not considered will be determined using common law principles and precedents.
Because drivers are always expected to drive safely, the Fault Determination Rules apply to every weather/visibility condition and circumstance of pedestrian or cyclist activity.
How do I know if I am at fault?
When you report a claim to your insurer, the adjuster assigned to your file will request copies of the accident report from either an accident reporting center or the police. You will also need to provide details on the other driver, their vehicle, and any witnesses’ names. They will also ask you to describe what happened in your own words.
Your insurer will then combine this information with the fault determination rules and decide who was responsible for the accident. Your adjuster will inform you of their determination.
The police will determine who was at fault at the scene of the accident and may even issue tickets for traffic offences such as distracted or careless driving. However, their decisions do not affect your insurance company’s determination of fault.
A driver can receive a traffic ticket for their driving behaviour at the time of the accident and still be found not at fault or only partially at fault by their insurance company. Still, suppose the police charge you with a driving violation. In that case, it can increase your insurance rate, even if you aren’t determined to be at fault for the accident.
Similarly, the police could attend an accident and say neither driver is at fault due to stormy conditions. But, that finding applies to their decision that neither driver should be charged with a violation under the Highway Traffic Act, not how insurers will determine fault for the collision.
How does an at-fault accident affect my record?
Insurance premiums are based on the risk the insurer is protecting. The higher the risk, the higher the premium. It is an unfortunate truth that at-fault accidents can increase your insurance premium. Historical data collected by insurers, police and the government show that someone with one at-fault accident is more likely to experience another in the coming few years.
First, the good news: If the accident caused less than $2,000 in damages and there were no injuries, your insurer, by law, cannot increase your premium.
For all other at-fault accidents, the amount of the increase is affected by your driving record and history. However, your premium will increase without accident forgiveness, even if you are a clean driver with no traffic tickets or other accidents on your record.
With accident forgiveness, otherwise known as an “accident waiver” endorsement, there could be no increase for your first at-fault accident. This is because if you carry the “accident waiver” endorsement, your first accident is free. Otherwise, your premium increase after an at-fault accident will depend on how long you have had insurance, your driving experience, and how long you were previously accident-free.
Suppose you experience two at-fault accidents within three years. Your insurance rate could increase significantly, or your policy could be cancelled. Suppose your insurer decides to cancel your policy. In that case, you will need to purchase more expensive high-risk insurance to continue driving.
Multiple at-fault accidents, traffic tickets or criminal driving charges within several years could also result in your insurance company deciding not to renew your policy.
One important factor to consider when asking how an at-fault accident affects your record is that insurance is assigned to the vehicle if an uninsured driver borrows your ride. So if you lend your car to a friend and they are involved in an at-fault accident, any penalties or premium increases could be assigned to your policy.
However, suppose the person driving your vehicle owns a vehicle. In that case, the accident will follow the driver and be charged on their insurance policy. Only if the driver does not have their own insurance will it affect your policy.
When does car insurance go down after an accident?
Suppose you weren’t protected by accident forgiveness at the time of an at-fault accident. In that case, you will probably pay more for insurance for at least six years, which is why accident forgiveness waivers can be valuable. Each insurance company sets unique rules regarding how long an at-fault accident affects your insurance premium.
Your insurer may ignore an at-fault accident after being accident-free for more than six years. This decision depends on your driving record, including traffic tickets and whether you have a recent conviction for a serious traffic violation or criminal driving charge.
Still, other insurers may look at your driving history for as long as the past ten years before offering any claims-free discounts. Each insurance company develops their own rules regarding the length of time an at-fault accident remains on your record. We encourage you to ask your insurance professional what you can expect.
What if I have accident forgiveness?
Accident forgiveness is an available addition to Ontario and Alberta auto insurance. It can allow you to avoid a premium increase after an at-fault accident. Here are a few things to know about accident forgiveness coverage.
Most importantly, you should know that accident forgiveness is not part of a standard auto insurance policy. Instead, it needs to be added as optional coverage to your insurance when you first purchase it or upon your policy renewal.
Not everyone will qualify for accident forgiveness coverage. For example, you will likely qualify if you are a clean driver and have not had an at-fault accident for six years. However, an accident on your record may mean you don’t qualify for the coverage, even if it was several years ago.
At-fault accident forgiveness protects you from a premium increase if the accident is relatively standard. However, it will not protect you if you are involved in an accident that results in criminal charges such as driving while impaired or stunt driving.
For good drivers, accident forgiveness coverage is an excellent way to protect yourself from a rare lapse of judgement that results in an at-fault accident. In addition, the price of accident forgiveness is significantly less than any premium increase or claims-free discount you may lose if you do not have the coverage.
Read more about how accident forgiveness works if you are interested in more information.