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Fault Determination After an Accident: What You Should Know

May 7, 2013

car accident fault determinationWhen you have been involved in an accident there are many things running through your mind. Among them will be how the accident might impact you in the future, especially your car insurance rates. Insurance premiums go up when you are found at fault in an accident and deciding who is at fault is the job of the insurance adjusters who will investigate the accident.

At the Scene of an Accident

When an accident has just happened there may be confusion and people may be quick to place blame. It’s important not to admit to or discuss the fault of an accident at the scene, but to simply record the facts for the appropriate person to investigate. Taking photos and obtaining the names and contact information of witnesses are both helpful. If another driver as accusatory, it’s best not to engage with them but simply exchange information and tell them you will allow your insurance company to handle the situation.

If there are any injuries or a large amount of damage at the scene, or if any property is damaged, the police will need to be called. While the police will make a report and may issue traffic violations or even make an arrest, they do not determine fault in an accident for the insurance company. A police report will be one of the pieces of evidence used in the investigation of the crash, but it is not the final word.

How Insurance Companies Determine Fault

After an accident the insurance companies involved will begin their investigation. They will take statements from drivers, passengers, and witnesses and look at photographs of the scene if available, and of the damage. They will consider all of the rules of the road and any posted signs governing intersections, sections of road, or any other area where an accident might take place.

When all of the information has been compiled, the insurance company will make a determination as to how the accident happened and what the cause appears to have been. They will then determine who is at fault based on a set of rules. In Ontario the Fault Determination Rules are a province-wide rules by which all insurance companies must abide. No matter who carries your policy, they will have to use Ontario’s rules in order to decide fault in your accident.

Other provinces allow insurance companies to make their own fault determination rules, which they will use in judging each accident. Some accidents may be quick and simple, while others may take a little more investigation. Most insurance companies follow a clear set of rules based on previous accidents, which will help them to make accurate decisions.

Fault Percentages and Shared Fault

In some cases an accident may be the result of errors on the part of both drivers. In these situations the two insurance companies may agree to a shared fault determination. Fault can be determined at 100% for one party, 50/50 for both parties, or any other range of percentages.

When the fault in an accident is shared, it generally means that both insurance companies will be charging their respective insured drivers an increase on their insurance as a result of the accident. It’s important to note that even if you live in a no-fault insurance province, someone will still be found at fault in an accident. No-fault insurance means that your insurance company will pay your claim no matter who is found at fault, not that there is no fault at all. This misunderstanding is common and can lead to confusion when an accident does occur.

When You Disagree With a Fault Determination

As part of your insurance policy contract, you have the right to disagree with a fault determination and the appeal the decision. Every insurance company has a procedure in place by which you will be permitted to state your case and offer evidence for why you believe the fault determination to be incorrect. If needed, a third party mediator will be brought in to hear the appeal and make a final decision based on all of the evidence. All parties involved will have to abide by that decision once it is made.

Providing your insurance company with all of the facts from the start, taking pictures at the scene, and giving detailed and accurate statements can help insurance companies to make the right determination from the start. Although it might not avoid all situations in which an appeal becomes necessary, cooperating with the investigation is the best way to ensure an outcome that is satisfactory to everyone.

An at-fault accident may impact your insurance rates; but that doesn’t mean you have to overpay. Each insurance company charges different rates to insure the same driver, with the same driving history. If you have an accident on your record, it’s important to shop around for car insurance quotes and see how much you could save.

  • G Yablonski

    One of the major problems with many Ontario police forces is that the default charge in even minor accidents is careless driving. In many cases the charge should be following too closely, failure to yield, etc.. This policy causes the driver to dispute the charge by hiring a lawyer or paralegal who then negotiates a lesser charge without ever going to court. This places a needless burden on drivers and lines the pockets of former police officers and other in the legal system. Worse still, many drivers just plead guilty to get past it and then suffer for years with unduly inflated insurance rates. I have heard from several police officers that they are directed to use careless driving as the default charge. Sounds pretty scary to me….

  • Jas

    In my opinion if you hit someone because you are following to closely or made an improper lane change it should be an automatic careless driving ticket. Due to one’s carelessness other have been hassled. Regardless of weather condition the person that cause the accident should get a careless driving ticket. There should be a law where a careless driving ticket should be irreversible to indisputable. This would get all the careless drivers eventually off the road.

  • Henry

    6 months ago I fainted while driving veered off the road and hit a tree ,no one else was involved the hospital told me I had become dehydrated my blood pressure dropped and that was why I passed out the officer charged me with careless driving I argued it with the crown prosecuter but all she would offer me was a lesser charge unsafe lane change $80 and 2 demerits Wat a crock

  • steve

    my wife was been hit 3 times last year – all were not her fault. all claims were paid and no premium increase incurred. last night, someone backed out of a parking spot smack dab into my wife as she was slowly exiting a parking lot. sure enough, she was also not at fault this time. since i would guess the damage is between 4-5K, we we plan to report it today to both police and insurance company.

    Back in the 70′s, it was possibly to be placed in a high risk group even if you were not at fault.

    So here’s my question – with no fault insurance in place these days, can her insurance premium increased?

  • Sam

    I was going West to East and making a left turn to North at an intersection. I was hit at driver side while taking a left turn on green turning Amber signal by a car coming from the SIDE (traveling north to south) crossing red. But still, since I was talking the left turn the insurance company said i am at fault!!.
    There was no charge on either vehicle by Police. They said that I was not at fault. But the insurance company said I am held at fault as per their law!.
    Is there anyway I can challenge this decision, as it was clearly not my fault- How can i imagine or be prepared for someone coming from Side crossing red would hit me!?

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