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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 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.

  • 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!?

  • Paul

    I approached an intersection behind two other vehicles with my left indicator on well in advance. The two cars in front of me were also indicating and turning left. When our green arrow advance came on we all began to turn. There was a traffic jam so, as I was the third car, I could not turn or I would block traffic. Then our advance was gone and I was forced to stay over the traffic line with a car behind me waiting for a safe chance to turn left. I was completely straight. The entire light expired. As the light began to turn red, I looked safely in all directions and began to turn as I was completely blocking traffic. At this time a car pulled through the red light with no indicator and turned left. At the last second I noticed and slammed my breaks. However, the lady still clipped my car with no damage, almost pushing me into oncoming traffic. , After we both exchanged info and she apologized, I made sure she was ok and we both left. The next day she called me and advised me she reported this to The Collision Reporting Center, so I did as well. I put all of this in my declaration, drew a diagram of the scene, they took pictures of my car and signed consent for both insurance providers to be able to gather the information. I never received a call or letter. My broker emailed me stating, It was determined to be “my fault” and my insurance is now sky rocketing . How is that possible? I could not reverse or I would hit the car behind me? I could not stay as I was blocking traffic? Therefore, I made sure it was “safe” and turned. She was at least three car lengths before the stop line with no indicator on when I began to turn. As the light was red, I am sure she was supposed to yield to traffic? I had no option but to go or block/get hit by the other traffic or reverse into the car behind me.There were no witnesses and I was advised her declaration states “yellow light and mine states red” Should it not be my word vs hers then? Therefore, both 50% (Which is still unfair in my opinion)???? How do I appeal this decision? Why didn’t I get a letter?


    What happens if the person was “speeding” whose fault would it be then?


    Shit that’s sad

  • James

    2 years ago my ex friends brother and me were out doing a job for his private company in a rented commercial truck. My ex friends brother turned from the middle lane to the left lane (3 lanes in total) cutting off a drive in thee left lane. While doing so the driver in the left lane reacted by going into the curb on their left. Now my ex friends brother had a suspended drivers license (which I did not know at the time) decided to flee the scene and return home. In no time at all the police contacted the owner of the truck and the owner contacted my ex friends parents to warn them at the police was coming to their home. His father peer pressured me into taking the blame because I was living with them and told me nothing would happen to me (I had just turned 18 but was still not thinking like a mature adult) When the police arrived I gave a statement saying I was driving and I safely merged from the middle lane to the left lane. 2 years later I have the other party trying to sue me for millions of dollars and they added me to a case in which they were involved in during 2012 at which time someone had passed away during that accident. I have evidence from social media in a chat with my ex friend telling me what to say to the insurance company to save themselves. Here is what was said among the chat me “alright but bill was driving bro not me I was in the passenger” ex friend replied saying “yeah man you want him to go to jail man ? Nothing is happening to you just relax” What Do I Do???

  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com

    your best bet is to seek legal advice for this.

  • jane

    unfortunately the same thing happened to me. how much increase of insurance will involved and how you are fighting it.

  • Ricky

    Unfortunately you were out in the intersection when you shouldn’t have been. You are technically supposed to remain behind the white lines while a single car in front of you proceeds into turning position and subsequently completes their maneuver. The way you have worded things here it seems like you did what 99% of the population does and crept up after the two cars in front of you, but the light expired before you could make your turn. Unfortunately, from both a legal AND insurance perspective, you are at fault because you should have stayed behind the lines, and in doing so, would have known the light would expire before you could turn.

    Again- you did what 99% of the population does- it just really sucks that this woman did what she did!

  • Ricky

    I respectfully disagree.There are two distinct charges in the law that deal with these. Careless driving is the default charge police are told to lay when they can’t be sure what happened- making it indisputable completely defeats the purpose of the ticketing system and our entire legal foundation which is based on have to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Careless should be reserved for people actually caught in the act of
    careless. It should not (as it is) be injudiciously laid against people
    when an officer is attending the scene because he or she is unable to
    determine with complete certainty that one party and one party only, is
    at fault.

    There are, sadly, people out in the world who exploit the insurance/legal system, by deliberately causing accidents in which they KNOW the other person will be at fault. By making a careless charge indisputable, you are keeping the most dangerous and manipulative drivers on the road.

  • Rasheeda

    In Nov. 2013 I was in the total left lane moving up approaching the intersection, the car in the lane on my right hit my passenger door with her drivers side as she was coming into my lane. No one was injured and the cop did a report, no one was charged also. Although the lady said I got her car. I didn’t go for therapy as I was ok, only my car was fixed. In March I get a letter saying they are suing my insurance for 3 million dollars. Can’t believe people can be so fraudulent.

  • sean parsley

    ms mrs == penny can you get me information ==on your legal team==im putting together something==Ontario no fault insurance is a crack to be smittin==id like to talk to ther people=im going to do something to stop the roads kraziness == please send contact number to ==timesoftime@aol.com ==I want to start a non profit==

  • Aidaly Rodriguez

    What if the insurance said it was 50 50 but there sueing me for the car damge but dosnt want to buy mine .. i font feel like i should have to but if we were put as 50 50 at fault

  • josh

    insurance act of ontario regulation 668 <———- google this…. these are the rules insurers HAVE to follow

  • Nina

    I was recently hit by a van as I was walking across a marked pedestrian cross walk, the van was completely stopped at the lights when the walk sigh singled it was my go to proceed in the cross walk, I did so after making sure all vehicles on either side of me were fully stopped as I was about 5-6″ from the curb a van that had been stopped and waiting to turn left actually did so as I was already in the cross walk he ended up accelerating into the left side of my body sending me into great panic and pain “and even More pain then I would have imagined the doctor says that it could be unclear as to what long term damage he has caused to my left side as there can be a lot of undetectable health issues that could heal or progress over time. the driver did not stop to check if I was okay he actually drove away when I when I was sitting on the curb paralyzed from the fear of it all, he had accelerated into me pushing be back 4-5″ the whole time being pressed up against his hood. he didn’t take his foot off the gas until I and another person started yelling and banging on his van. I had got his plate # and was reading it the 911 operator as he was driving away, a witness had tried to approach him before he drove away to ask if he could leave with us his details. this being said the 911 operator as well as the attending police officers knew he had drove away, the man that ended returning in the van 45min later was not the same man at all he pulled over asked me if I had infact called the police and if they were coming, I confirmed yes he stayed and waited for the police to arrive. the police once arrived knew he fled the seen and knew I had doubts about he wasn’t the driver but at time I was in a stated of shook I didn’t push it the man was given a ticket and I was told buy the police and fire crew to take is info and make a claim throu ICBC. what is wrong here or is it just me and am I allowed to push this matter further and take this case to court Please any info would help

  • Hannah

    I was recently driving and I had just passed an intersection in the left lane where a bus was turning ahead so all the cars were moving into the right lane to go around it. The car behind me was still in the intersection and I looked and no one was coming through the intersection on the right, so I signalled and started to turn but the car directly behind me decided to speed up and go instead of waiting his turn, changing lanes in the intersection, while I had already started to turn into the other lane. I saw him going too fast beside our car and tried to move back but the back side of his car near the wheel hit my front bumper on the side. I know it was not my fault – he was making an illegal lane change, but I’m thinking it might *look* as if it is my fault, like I was changing lanes and hit his car. I filed a police report and made a statement. My question is, will they still think it is my fault? Could they determine from the damage that he was the one going faster and was at fault? How much weight does my statement to the police carry? If they do determine I’m at fault, can I fight it? He didn’t even come to the collision centre, it was like he didn’t care at all. I took pictures and we were very close to the intersection so could that help them see he was changing lanes while still in the intersection? Could I send those to the insurance company if they say I am at fault? His car was also huge, it was one of those very large vans, he shouldn’t have been so aggressive/reckless. I tried to get an officer to come as this was my first real accident but of course they don’t send someone for something so minor.

  • Hannah

    Try looking into a personal injury lawyer.

  • James

    I was reversing my vehicle out of a parking spot at the bank. I Came to a complete stop to put my car in drive. Before I could put my vehicle I drive, a lady backed into the back my vehicle. When this happend, I had 2 passengers with me and the impact caused all of us to shift forward. When I exited my vehicle, the lady admitted to backing Into my vehicle and she said that she would pay for the damages. I immediately went to the police reporting centre for documentation purposes.

    When I met with the female to get a quote, she was quoted 1159 dollars to fix my Bumper and the paint chipping/scuffing above the drivers side bumper. She declined to pay for the damages and said that she would only pay half of my Insurance deductible.

    My question is if I go through insurance, what are the chances of me winning this claim? The lady admitted guilt and my passengers heard her say that it was her fault and that she would pay for the damages. I’m concerned that if I go through insurance, we will be both be found at fault and my insurance rate will increase.



  • InsuranceHotline

    since the other driver was reversing she will likely be considered to be at fault.

  • InsuranceHotline

    I’m not sure if you can change your statement. better to check with the police.

  • InsuranceHotline

    since you rear ended the other driver you are at fault regardless of the fact that the other driver stopped with no apparent reason. You can try to fight the ticket but the court may say that the proof is that you did rear end the other driver so you must have been too close.

  • Mary Jo Drager

    Yikes! What is your insurance company, if you don’t mind sharing?

  • Mary Jo Drager

    What did they sue you for??

  • InsuranceHotline

    you can try going back you your insurance company and have them change your liability. it might be difficult to prove after a few years.

  • Gagik Ter Tumasyan- Safaryan

    HI, I’m here to ask a question about the fault determination by my own insurance company.
    How can I dispute without having too much problem?
    At the first my company adjuster determined that, it’ was not the company driver’s fault (Car is a company car), then after I have explained the situation, he comes back few days later and claim, that the other party involved, claim other ways.
    So I didn’t take the car to fix it to make sure the fault is changed.
    I have provided all the evidence, that it’s not my company driver’s fault, and couldn’t explain enough.
    Now the insurance increased and I’m getting 50% increase, what is not making sense!
    My point is, that my driver have been rear ended by the TTC bus and the rack stamped in the right lower end of company vehicle, and that fact is ignored by my own Insurance company!
    Have photo’s location map and all the evidence to prove that my company driver wasn’t at fault, no help.
    What is my next step?

  • InsuranceHotline

    If your driver was clearly rear-ended by a TTC bus then I don’t understand why your company would increase your rate because of that accident. Your best bet is to contact the insurance company ombudsperson. You will be able to find their contact information on the insurance company website.

  • Gagik Ter Tumasyan- Safaryan

    Thank you.

  • InsuranceHotline

    You should contact your insurance company in Ontario. Your company might pay for the damage under “no fault”. This would be considered a not at fault accident and your insurance premium should not increase.

  • Sa

    Recently just got into an accident. Going northbound on Hwy 63. It is a double lane highway and a snow plow was in the left lane clearing snow and right lane was free. I passed him doing 60 due to snowy road conditions and once I was halfway done passing he swerved across the centre line hitting my front side panel causing me to lose control and go into the ditch. Insurance company is saying I’m not at fault but it is finalized once the police investigation is done. Is there any way they could say I was at fault and how long does it take for the investigation to be completed.

  • InsuranceHotline

    You should find out from the police department as to how long it might take to complete the report.

  • InsuranceHotline

    The insurance adjuster determines who is at fault from an insurance perspective. You hit a vehicle that was not moving so you would be at fault regardless of it being on a highway.

  • InsuranceHotline

    Report the incident to your insurance company. They will advise you of your next steps. If you want to fight the ticket you will have to go to court.

  • InsuranceHotline

    It sounds like the other driver would be at fault since they were merging into your lane.

  • cx fox

    The problem is the other party says he didn’t change the lane. He claimed he just merged to the bike lane and turned right. My insurance says the fact his right back door hit my car front left side can not disapprove the other driver’s claim. So the accident is 50-50. I can imagine this could happen if he just made a typical right turn.

  • cx fox

    Sorry I mean I can’t imagine.

  • Joooooo

    I had an accident yesterday where i was turning left and i had a green light and from what i seen i had a clear lane to turn so i did as I turned the oncoming car continued to keep driving at a high speed and also did not attempt to swerve out of the way to avoid the crash, his car hit my back passenger side and my car spon around so technically by law it is my fault but it seems as if the kid was texting or not looking up at the road since he continued at a high speed and did not even attempt to avoid my car. Is there anyway i can prove this? Will they even take that into consideration?

  • InsuranceHotline

    Unless there is a camera shot showing the other driver texting, you might be out of luck

  • InsuranceHotline

    Regardless of road conditions whenever a driver rear ends another driver they are usually at fault regardless of the province.

  • myles

    i was travelling down road in the right lane during a snow storm, when the driver in the left lane ahead merged abruptly in the right in attempt to avoid the traffic build up in his lane. When he pulled in front of my car in the right lane the traffic also came to a stop (only to gain a few car lengths). At this point i didnt enough space for me to stop on time due to the bad weather conditions. This caused me to slide into the back of his car. Who is at fault?

  • SdRoo

    In Oct, my daughter (G2) was traveling westbound. As she entered an intersection the light changed to Amber. She attempted to stop but was unable and continued through. A vehicle heading East made a left turn in front of her causing a collision. The attending office charged my daughter with careless. She hired a paralegal. The charges were dropped as the crown could not find her at fault. The insurance say that her driving record is still down from 3 to 0. And higher insurance. There wasn’t collision insurance on my vehicle (2001 neon) which is a right off and still sitting at a yard. Insurance adjuster has not returned my calls. I can’t change companies because the claim is still open. :(

  • Mistress Skydrake

    In my case the fault determination should be the simple part, I was parked and a city Montreal. QC. sidewalk snowplow hit my car. I was not in the car, the car was parked legally on city street next to a car repair shop, the city left a pink city slip of responsibility with their coordinates plate no. driver’s name EE #. It has been 30 days and insurance company still can’t determine fault. I have spoken to the city and they accept fault. Insurance blames the city of being unresponsive. p.s. My car was damaged the week previous, I paid for repairs of first accident the day before I was hit by the city vehicle because I do not have collision insurance. Hence why I was parked next to the repair shop. Yes I was terribly unlucky, is this why it is taking so long to determine fault? p.p.s we have no fault insurance in province and city accidents are covered no deductible by the person’s/my insurance if fault is city vehicle.

  • mtnmedic

    Insurance companies are eager to list you at fault (even if you’re not at fault) if you’re a low/basic ratepayer because it’ll trap you with them as it’ll be more expensive to try to get insurance elsewhere with an at-fault designation. This is a old ploy and it’s wrong. Called my insurer on it through the Insurance Commissioner’s office and they’re now in a lot of trouble. Do NOT do business with Metromile.

  • Donna

    My daughter was backing out of our driveway and a friend of mine was coming up the driveway, my daughter didn’t see her and my friend never had a horn to notify her. What are the driveway rules when it comes to insurance?

  • InsuranceHotline

    Your insurance company will likely consider that it is an at fault accident since the driver who is reversing is considered to be at fault.

  • Johana Cabrera

    My son was turning left on a yellow light, he got T-boned by the vehicle coming the opposite direction. My son’s insurance accepted 100% liability and paid 100% of the damages to the other vehicle.
    You can’t turn left until you are completely sure that it’s safe to do so. If the other car decided to go straight from stopped traffic, he should be found a percentage at fault, but unfortunately, they will find the left turner mostly at fault.

  • V

    Hi Johanna,
    Did the person who hit your son run through a yellow light by any chance? And what state was this in if you don’t mind me asking. (I don’t know if the rules are different in another state.) I am from Florida and this same exact accident happened to me.

  • Olivia

    Hi, I was recently in a car accident 1 week ago and a woman cross over to my lane since she didn’t see me. But when the police officer came, she changed the whole story and said that I was the one crossing over to her lane. The police officer believed her and I don’t know how to make him realize that she is lying. What can I do in order to prove it’s her fault?

  • InsuranceHotline

    Regardless of the technology that exists in your car, you rear ended the person in front of you. That makes you 100% at fault.

  • Jennifer

    So in my case I was driving and I had my left signal on because I was getting ready to get in the other lane but I saw a car speeding up in us really fast in my rear mirror and beginning to swerve I didnt know what the car was doing so it had no signals on or nothing so it was still a distance yet so I went to go start to switch lanes next thing I know this SUV type vehicle smacked into my van so hard it hit my van went back then hit again smashing the window then coming back at me actually hitting my head which I think knocked me out for just a couple seconds and I come back to and her vehicle is hitting my side door then ends up hitting the front end of my van she hit us quite a few times and I am kind of out of it, my husband, father in law, and brother in law were all with me and my father in law got hit in the head pretty hard because we had a bench in our van still because my husband and i just got married a few days before this (since then he has had memory problems) the accident was 10-20=2017.
    When the ambulance came and took me to the hospital I was kind of out of it but I do remember they had me and my father in law in the same one and when I got there they kept my neck very still of course because I was in alot of pain and still pretty out of it, well after the nurse and everyone left the room the cop came in and started questioning me k owing I was confused and I couldn’t really even answer and when I did go to finally say something he told me to shut up it didnt matter because I was guilty anyways!!! And gave me tickets and walked out! I was angry and full of rage and also confused how I was guilty when she smelled like alcohol, she was speeding, and she hit me multiple times?
    Now during court the police officer told the court there was only 2 of us in the van and was not very truthful about alot and that woman did not get tested at all!!!! But I did!! But I didnt mind I had nothing to hide. That lady lied about everything she said she was driving down the street on a nice beautiful day and this woman out of no where with bright red hair hit her out of nowhere first of all I didnt have red hair lol second of all she hit me she is all lies I didnt have a lawyer I dont have the money to because there was a money mess up with my bank account and my car insurance didnt get paid so then I didnt have car insurance!!! So it was all adding up and quickly and of course i was found guilty and now I’m sitting here in constant pain for almost a year have been having so many seizures since then i now have degenerative disk disease from c5 to c5 which i didnt have before and my neck has hurt since that day along with the headaches and seizures and this lady gets away with everything

  • teresa

    is the action of “loading grocery” consider (( using)) a vehicle in a insurance claim?
    when shopping cart roll down hit other car because of tilted land from loading grocery, will car insurance company pay for shopping cart liablity from titled land? please help.