At Fault Accidents And Insurance In Ontario - What You Need To Know

Jan 23, 2017

Am I at fault? This is one of the first things that goes through your mind when you get into an accident. This is quickly followed up with, How much will this accident impact my insurance rates?

Car accidents happen. But, whether or not you are the one at fault and how it will impact your car insurance can be a grey area – and it’s a topic Ontario drivers need to and want to know more about.

First Things First – Don’t Admit To Being At Fault

At Fault Accident And Insurance Impact

Before we get into the details about at fault accidents in Ontario, drivers need to know one very important thing when getting into an accident – never admit fault at the scene. If possible, don’t discuss it with the other drivers involved. Record what happened, take photos, get witness contact information, and follow the instructions of the police or head to the accident reporting centre.

Learn more about what to do when you get into an accident in Ontario.

What Is An At Fault Accident? What Does It Mean To Be At Fault In An Accident?

An at fault accident is exactly as it sounds – you are the driver who is at fault, or the cause of an accident. For example, you are the car that initiated contact or failed to stop in time. Depending on the situation, one or multiple drivers can be found to be somewhat at fault for an accident. The amount of fault for which you are responsible will be determined by your insurance company. Someone will always be found to be at fault, whether it’s fully or partially. You can be found anywhere from 0% to 100% at fault.

One thing that many drivers are unaware of is that at fault collisions apply to all drivers. The Insurance Bureau of Canada explains:

When you lend your car to someone, you also lend that person your insurance. If the person who borrows your car has an at-fault collision while driving it, their accident goes on your insurance record, and your insurance premium could go up.

How Is Fault Determined?

This is where things can get complicated and difficult to understand. Fault is determined by your insurance company. To do this, they use the Fault Determination Rules that were created under the Insurance Act to investigate the accident and assign fault.

The Financial Services Commission of Ontario explains :

After you report an accident to your insurer, the company will investigate the circumstances of the accident and then make a fault decision based on the Fault Determination Rules.

These rules :

  • Cover more than 40 accident situations, using diagrams to illustrate specific occurrences, can be applied to almost every possible road collision scenario; and
  • Are applied regardless of road or weather conditions, visibility, point of impact on the vehicles, or the actions of pedestrians.

Fault is allocated to each driver based on which accident scenario most closely resembles the accident. If the accident is not described by any of the scenarios, then fault is allocated according to the ordinary rules of negligence law.

Do The Police Have Anything To Do With The Insurance Company Fault Assessment?

At Fault Accident - Will My Inusurance Rates Increase?

Contrary to popular belief, the police do not have an impact on your insurance company’s decision to assign fault. If you are charged with a traffic offence as part of your accident, you will not necessarily be deemed to be at fault. On the other hand, if the police decide not to file charges after an accident, you can still be found to be at fault for the crash.

FSCO provides a good example:

For example, if a vehicle was unable to stop on an icy road and rear-ended another, a police officer may say that neither of the drivers was at-fault. Such a comment relates to the laying of charges and should not be taken as an opinion about how the Fault Determination Rules apply to an auto insurance claim. In a case like this, the insurer would apply the rule stating that a vehicle which rear-ends another is at-fault.

What If You Don’t Agree With Insurance Company’s Determination Of Fault

You have the right to disagree with your insurance company’s fault determination. This is why it’s so important to document everything after an accident. You can appeal the decision and state your case to your insurance company – all companies have an appeal process in place. A third party mediator may also be brought in to make a final determination.

Learn More About Fault Determination Rules In Ontario

Want to learn more about the fault determination rules? Visit the Service Ontario website.

The Most Common Types Of At Fault Accidents

There are many different types of car crashes and accidents that you could be involved in when driving – sideswipes, T-bones, head-on collisions, multi-car pile-ups and more. In total, there are 40 common types of car accidents that are used to determine fault. However, there is a difference between getting into an accident and being cause of an at fault accident.

Here are the top 5 types of at fault accidents :

Rear End Collision

This is perhaps the easiest type of auto accident to determine fault. If you rear end another vehicle, then you will most likely be found at fault for the accident. Whether the vehicle comes to a sudden stop, is stopped at a traffic light, or even stopped on the side of the road, the vehicle that makes the initial contact is most commonly the cause of the accident.

What about multiple rear end collisions, or chain reaction accidents? If multiple cars rear end each other, each vehicle that hits the car in front of them will usually share some of the fault for the accident.

Single Driver Accidents

If you are involved in an accident and no other drivers are involved, then you will be found to be at fault for the accident, in most instances. Common types of single driver accidents include causing damage to public property, crashing into a parked vehicle, hitting a tree and hitting a pedestrian. Even if the cause is poor road conditions, or you swerve to avoid an animal or something else on the road, you will still be found at fault.

Failure To Obey Traffic Signs

If you fail to abide by the rules of the road, then you will most likely be found to be at fault for an accident. This includes running a red light, failure to signal when changing lanes, or disobeying a posted traffic sign and causing an accident with another vehicle that was following the rules of the road, regardless of who made the initial contact.

Accidents As A Result Of Distracted Driving

Taking your eyes and attention off the road for any reason will make you at fault. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of accidents and deaths on Ontario roads, and if you are found to have been texting, using your phone, or engaging in any activity that is deemed to be distracted driving, then you will most likely be found to be at fault.

Accidents Due To Impaired Driving

Driving while impaired will immediately qualify you to be at fault if you are involved in a car accident. Getting behind the wheel when driving or high on drugs is negligent, reckless and considered intentional misconduct, all factors that are used by insurance companies to determine fault for an automobile accident.

These are some of the most common types of at-fault accidents; however, regardless of the type of accident in which you are involved, there is a chance that you could be found to be fully or partially at fault.

What About No Fault Insurance?

Even though the name may be a little misleading, no fault insurance does not mean that no one will be found to be at fault after a car accident. Ontario is a no fault province. Having no fault insurance as part of your policy means that regardless of who is found to be the cause of an accident, your insurer will handle your claim, and the other party’s insurer will handle their claim.

How Much Does Your Insurance Go Up After An At Fault Accident?

Now for the all-important question – how much does insurance increase if you are found to be the cause of an accident?

Well, it depends on a number of factors, such as :

  • Your Driving Record : If you have a clean driving record, your rates will likely go up less than if you have an accident or two on your record.
  • Do You Have Accident Forgiveness : This is additional coverage you can purchase to protect yourself from rate increases after an at fault collision.

IBC provides a good summary of how an at fault crash can impact your insurance premiums :

If you’ve had a number of at fault accidents, you may be considered a high risk driver. Learn more about your options for high risk car insurance.

What If I Am Not At Fault? How Much Will My Insurance Increase?

At Fault Accident Determination Rules In Ontario

If you get into a non-fault accident and are found to not be the cause of the crash, your insurance rates will not likely increase. It is a common car insurance myth that your rates will automatically increase if you file a car insurance claim. A not at fault accident will have little impact on your rates, especially if you have accident forgiveness coverage.

What About Car Accidents With A Pedestrian At Fault?

What if pedestrian is at fault? What happens if a pedestrian caused an accident or a pedestrian ran in front of your car? The same rules apply in determining fault as if two vehicles where in an accident. Your insurance company will use the Fault Determination Rules to assess responsibility to the incident.

There are a number of common situations where pedestrians can be found to be at fault for an accident, even if they are not hit by the car or injured. They include :

  • Crossing in the middle of the road
  • Jaywalking
  • Crossing against traffic signals

Do Hit And Runs Raise Your Insurance?

Hit and run accidents are one of the most frustrating for drivers. You come out of the store or come out of work after a long day to see that someone has hit your vehicle. There is most likely no note and no sign of the other driver. What do you do? Are you on the hook for the damage?

Unfortunately, if you do not find out who caused the damage, you will be on the hook for your deductible. However, you will not see your insurance rates increase.

In order for this situation to be deemed a no fault car accident, you will need to provide your insurance company with a copy of a police report. This means going to the accident reporting centre within 24 hours of the incident.

Who’s Fault At For An Accident In A Parking Lot?

With vehicles going at various speeds and directions, parking lots are a breeding ground for fender benders. But who is at fault for a parking lot accident? Just like when driving, it depends on the details of the situation. Fault Determination Rules apply to parking lots, and they will be used by your insurance company to assess the situation and assign fault.

Get In A Car Accident in Ontario? Report It To Your Broker

If you get into an accident, whether it is your fault or a non-fault accident, as soon as it is safe to do so, report it to your insurance broker or insurance company. They will be able to help you with the claims process and answer your questions about how the accident could impact your insurance.

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Have A Fender Bender? What To Do When A Car Accident Happens in Ontario
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