When 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 Ontario car 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.