Traffic Tickets (moving violation): At the scene
Any traffic ticket, excluding parking tickets, can cause your insurance rate to skyrocket by thousands of dollars. But getting a ticket is different than being convicted. Just because you receive a ticket does not mean you are guilty of the offense.
The Real Cost Of A Ticket
Many people consider just paying the ticket instead of fighting it. They reason that it's only $65, and it's just cheaper to pay it than take the time off from work. But you need to know that it can cause your insurance rates to jump between $300 to $500 a year, and stay on your record for three years. Below is a rate example of a 25 year-old living in Toronto, showing the spread of rates between the lowest to the highest quotes from a database of 30 top Canadian insurance companes. You can get the same rate comparison to find the 3 best rates for you by going to InsuranceHotline.com.
2002 Toyota Echo - Clean Record
Low - $1,834
High - $5,430
Difference - $3,436
2002 Toyota Echo - 1 Ticket
Low - $2,197
High - $5,986
Difference - $3,090
The combinaton of tickets and accident can cause your insurance company to cancel you. If you are at-fault for an accident, you could also receive a ticket, and that accident will stay on your record for 6 years (with some companies it's 10 years). So that minor ticket that you paid and didn't fight could be critical to your insurance renewing if you ever have an accident.
Tickets: Guilty or Not Guilty
Every ticket should be challenged in court, as errors are made, and if so, you will not be convicted. If you ignore the ticket, you will be automatically convicted. If you do not pay the ticket, your licence will be suspended.
When you get a ticket you can plead guilty, guilty with an explanation, or not guilty. If you are fighting the ticket, you must plead NOT guilty. Guilty with an explanation is still guilty, and you will be charged. Even if the fine is reduced, you're still guilty.
If you are pulled over, you should:
1) Stay in your car. The police feel more comfortable as you are contained and less likely to attack or run away. Though you are a reasonable person, the officer does not know that. They are paid to be suspicious, and they don't know who you are. All they know is that they observed suspicious behaviour.
By law, you are required to stop immediately and safely for an emergency vehicle. However, if you are concerned about your safety when stopping in a poorly-lit area, you may wish to slow down, turn on your 4-way flashers, and put your window down and wave the police officer down the street to a better-lit, more populated area. You should then proceed at a low speed to a point where there is better lighting.
Technically, you're committing an offense by not stopping immediately, but you probably wouldn't get convicted of it so long as you signal that you are aware of the officer's presence, you are not trying to outrun them, and give them a manual signal (waving them forward with your arm).
2) Make sure you have all of your paperwork upon request, such as driver's license, ownership papers, and proof of insurance. The fines for driving without a license can be $300, and without insurance can be as much as $5,000.
3) Do not argue with the officer. If you are offensive towards the officer, it triggers that you may be hiding something, prolonging the encounter, and you may receive multiple tickets. Be brief and professional. Don't argue, beg, or cry. It may be in your interest not to tip off the police officer that you're going to fight this in court, or else he'll be sure his notes are clear and in order.
4) You must watch that you are not admitting guilt. A common question for the officer to ask is, "Do you know why you were pulled over?" Many would say, "I think it's because I was speeding," or something similar. But what if he pulled you over for not wearing a seatbelt? Suddenly, you find yourself with multiple tickets. Say "No" if you are asked this question.
5) Policemen do have some discretion when it comes to issuing a ticket or not, or whether to reduce the ticket. Don't argue, don't conduct a trial at the curbsite. They've heard every reason before. Was there a mitigating circumstance? If so, state it, but do not make a huge issue out of it. Later on, in court, you can use this in your defence if the officer did not investigate the mitigating circumstances further.
Once you are done dealing with the officer, do not just drive away. The officer has taken notes and will be using these in the courtroom. After he leaves, you should also take notes. It is a far more effective defence. Note weather conditions, traffic, and if the signage was clearly visible. Could the officer actually see the vehicle clearly? Was their view obstructed by ramps or elevation or anything else?
Also recall the conversation you had with the officer, and anything else that may factor in. You need to do this while it is fresh in your mind. Many police traps pull over several drivers at a time. Take note of the number of drivers pulled over; were you just thrown into the group?
If you have a radar detector, do not put it in your pocket. You could be charged with obstructing justice.
Many people think if they are caught speeding, they have the right to see the radar. You do not. And you don't want to either, because that would be confirmation that you were guilty of speeding.
The police use omni-directional radar devices, so they can shoot ahead, behind, to the side, anywhere. If you are caught by the radar device, that does not automatically make you guilty. The radar device is used to corroborate what the officer saw. As an example, if the officer were to go to court and say they got you going 122 by a radar device, that would disqualify the conviction. The officer must first say the purpose of using the device, then that they saw your vehicle clearly and it appeared to be speeding, then used the radar device to corroborate their suspicion.
There are a number of cases questioning radar and red-light cameras. Red-light cameras, for instance, are to catch people who run red lights. However, the consequences are that people are using poor judgment of whether or not to go through a yellow light. People are violently braking, causing accidents. What are your rights when reporting this type of "forced" accident? Red-light cameras are legal. The ticket can't affect the insurance because they don't know who the driver is.
Traffic Tickets and Points
If the police officer gives you a ticket and tells you not to worry because there won't be any points taken off your record, so it won't affect your insurance, they're wrong.
Points are used to measure your drivng behaviour, and is regulated by the Ministry of Transportation. They are not connected with insurance rates. To an insurance company, a ticket is a ticket, regardless of points. Insurance companies seperate tickets into 3 categories: minor, major and criminal.
If you would like to get a copy of your Motor Vehicle Report, or see a sample, you can go to the Ministry of Transportation's Driver's License History. Get a copy of your accident report, driver's license validity and driving record.
If you need information on what type of conviction you have, you can see a list of convictions.
Traffic Tickets: Fighting Them
Many people think a traffic ticket means they're guilty, but that is not true. The officer has pulled you over and given you a ticket because they believe you are guilty of an infraction, but you are innocent until proven guilty, and the proof comes in a court of law, not from the ticket. Even if you are guilty, you still have the right to plead not guilty, and have them prove the charge in a fair trial.
If you receive a ticket, you can call Pointts, the traffic ticket specialists, at 1-888-787-1000 and receive a free consultation. It's important to explore all of your rights.
Beware of advice from friends too. The most common bad advice given is that people think if there's a mistake on the ticket, it will be waived and you don't have to worry about it. Maybe they spelled your name wrong, or they put the wrong year on the ticket, so people just ignore it. This is the worst thing to do, and could result in you being convicted and potentially losing your driver's license if you ignore the fine because you think you're free. Take advantage of the free consultation to cover yourself.
Here are some things to consider:
1) Many people don't realize that a seatbelt offense still counts against your insurance record. If you are pregnant or have some other medical condition that prohibits you from wearing a seatbelt, you must get a doctor's note to confirm the exemption, and you must have the certificate with you when you are pulled over. If you cannot wear a seatbelt for medical reasons, you should store this document with your other paperwork. You cannot show up a few days later with the note to the officer. It is too late.
2) In many parts of Ontario, you can plead "not guilty" by mail and receive a trial date. But in the GTA, you actually have to go to the traffic court to enter a "not guilty" plea and set a trial date. You should double-check this no matter where you live. This may make it seem more convenient to just send in the money, especially on smaller amounts, but it can cost you way more in the long run in insurance costs.
3) By writing a cheque and sending it in, you are automatically pleading guilty to the offense.
4) When pleading your case in court, you have the options of guilty, not guilty, or guilty with explanation. You can plead not guilty, guilty, or guilty with an explanation which includes mitigating circumstances. Mitigating circumstances may reduce the cost of the ticket, but you are still considered guilty of the offense. Most people think by saying not guilty, they're calling the police officer a liar, but that is not true.
5) You can still maintain you're not at-fault, even if the court finds you guilty. This may come back in the event of a civil lawsuit.
6) Ticket quotas are a myth. They did exist in the US to finance cities...in the 1930's. But they do not exist today.
Traffic Accidents: In the event of an accident
How do we prepare for an accident? Doesn't the word "accident" suggest that we're not expecting it? The reality is we need to be prepared. It can be difficult to think clearly when one happens, but you need to keep a cool head. One thing you may want to do is contact Car Help Canada today at 416-651-0555 or online at carhelpcanada.com. Car Help Canada is a non-profit organization that helps its members with various services, one being consultations in the event of an accident as well as information on reliable tow trucks and body shops. That's one way to prepare.
If you are in an accident, keep in mind the following:
1) Remain calm. It sounds simple, but an accident can be a stressful event. In rare instances, the other driver may also be enraged or upset. If that is the case, you should remain in your vehicle until the situation calms down. Notify the police if you must.
You must assist any injured person in any possible way. Call 911 if there is an injury. Also, be sure you don't aggravate any injuries. Many people with good intentions have tried to help by moving somebody in an accident, and it actually led to more severe injuries.
You must also remain at the scene of the accident, and upon request, give in writing to anyone sustaining loss or injury, or to any police officer or to any witness, your name, address, driver's license number, motor vehicle liability insurance policy, and ownership information.
An accident draws a lot of people's attention, but they leave quickly. You need to act fast and get names, phone numbers and license plates. You may need them later as witnesses. You want to collect as much information as possible. Was there clear fault? Are there any witnesses? Draw a sketch, it really does help a great deal. Exchange information with the other driver. Make sure you see the actual documents; don't let them write it down for you. If they don't have it, call the police. By law, they have to. If they try to flee the scene, get their license plate number.
2) How you deal with the accident will vary depending on the circumstances. If anyone is injured or there is damage to property, or there is more than $1,000 in damage, you must call the police and notify your insurance broker or agent. If the vehicles are not drivable, you may also need to notify the police because you will be obstructing traffic. If a person involved with the accident refuses to give out information or tries to flee the scene, you must contact the police as well.
If the police are notified, think carefully about what you say to the officer. Police motor vehicle accident investigators define the word "accident" as a "caused occurrence." This means is that the accident investigator will assess responsibility for the collision depending on the evidence that they see or hear at the scene.
Given all the circumstances at the scene and the driver's mental distraction it is unlikely that the explanation will be full or complete or even accurate, but whatever is said will be a major factor in the officers decision as to who is responsible and whether or not an offence has been committed.
As an example, if you said, "I didn't see the other car," it could be misconstrued as careless driving, as opposed to "I didn't see the car until it was too late." A conviction of careless driving can cause your insurance rates to increase up to $4,000.
Any statement to the police has to be voluntary. If you say, "I make this statement solely for the purpose of the Motor Vehicles Registrar and nothing else. This is not a voluntary statement," then continue on, this should protect you from having your statement used against you in a court of law.
Citizen knows by watching TV that they have the right to remain silent, except when it comes to an accident. The registrar, you have to report the circumstances of the accident so they can look into potential road problems (bad intersections, road needs repairs). Section 199-10 of the Highway Traffic Act shall classify the vehicle permit records as irrepairable or salvage. It lets them assess the accident and the condition of the vehicle. The insurance company can ask for it, but it doesn't send them out voluntarily.
3) If there is under $1,000 in damages and no one was hurt and no damage to property (all three must apply), please speak with your broker or agent to see if you need to file a claim.
Also, if an insurance company contacts you to find out details of the accident, make sure that it is your insurance company. Sometimes, the other person's insurance company will call you to try and get more details, and you may be found at-fault for the claim because of it. These conversations may be taped without your knowledge, which is legal. So you need to be very careful about who you're talking to, and aware that what you say may be used against you. It's best to speak with your broker or agent first.
4) If the damage is more than $1,000, you should take the vehicle to the Collision Reporting Centre (CRC) as soon as possible. If it is less than $1,000, you don't have to take it to the CRC.
If you do not say anything, the CRC automatically will report the accident to your insurance company and you may be cancelled for non-disclosure if you did not speak to your broker or agent about it. However, you may request for the CRC not to report it to the insurance company.
Police will come to the scene when one or more of the following situations apply:
- Collisions involving injury or death.
- Criminal activity involved in collisions (e.g., impaired driving, stolen vehicle, assault, etc.).
- Collisions involving federal, provincial or municipal vehicles (including TTC).
- Collisions involving a person who is uninsured or is a suspended driver.
- Collisions involving vehicles transporting dangerous goods.
- Collisions involving damage to private, municipal or highway property.
Collision Reporting Centres are a police facility created to help motorists in reporting motor vehicle collisions. The concept of self reporting collisions is the main function of the Collision Reporting Centres. Drivers involved in collisions involving property damage must report within twenty-four hours to a Collision Reporting Centre, where a police officer will inspect and take pictures of the vehicle damage. The driver must then complete a government collision report form, which is reviewed by a police officer. This service is currently available in the Greater Toronto Area, Halton and Peel regions.
Toronto Collision reporting Tel: 416-808-3960 or the Ontario OPP 1-888-310-1122
Please note: most insurance companies require that you report all accidents to the insurance broker or agent, regardless of the amount. No matter what, speak to your broker or agent before contacting the insurance company to get specific advice to the situation.
5) If you cannot drive the vehicle safely, you need to get it towed. Even if the vehicle's engine is in tact, there are other safety considerations. For example, if the headlights don't work and the accident occurs when it is dark outside, that would be unsafe. Rear brake lights not functioning is another example of a hazard that makes the vehicle unsafe to drive. If any parts are hanging off of the vehicle, do not drive it. You may cause more harm to other vehicles behind you.
If you have a garage in mind already, tell them to tow it there. Or you may want to call Car Star to find a reputable garage in your neighbourhood. Or you may wish to get the vehicle towed back to your place. Some body shops will travel to provide estimates, and they may also have their own tow truck to bring the vehicle to their shop. You may also want to ask the police to recommend a tow truck company.
Under no circumstance should you just accept the tow truck's recommendations. Many tow trucks will even receive commissions from certain body shops. They may even try to give you some money to convince you to go with their choice, but you will end up paying for it.
6) You should also speak with Pointts at 1-888-787-1000 for a free consultation, or other legal representatives, who can provide you with more specific advice depending on the circumstances. The combination of tickets and accidents can be worse for your insurance than just tickets or just accidents. If you're able to prove the ticket wrong, it may save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in insurance costs.
Other things to know:
1) Insurance companies have different fault rules than the law. You could be considered not at-fault legally, but at-fault insurance-wise.
2) If you are 100% not at-fault, your insurance company should not increase the premium. If they do, there was a mistake somewhere. Please note: This is based on the insurance company's definition of at-fault, not the legal definition.
Traffic Accidents: Towing
Many tow trucks get a 10% commission to take your car to a specific body shop, or they may take it to the pound. You may even find that some try to give you money, to make you feel at ease with their recommendations of a body shop. Do not listen to them.
Once it gets there, you can be billed big time for storage fees, $600 to $700 for a couple of days. If you don't pay the storage fees, they will not release the car. It's all legal, so you need to know about it before it happens.
If they start hooking up your car, say no. Find out the costs to tow it, and where they plan on taking it. Find a garage you're comfortable with before you get into an accident. Or you may wish to get the vehicle towed to your house. Many body shops will come out to inspect your vehicle, and have their own tow trucks to go get the vehicle from your place.
Or you can contact Car Star at 1-800-CAR-STAR. They can determine a Car Star location near you. Most have a reliable tow truck company they have worked with.
Traffic Accidents: Court
When you go into courts, there is a procedure of points to prove your innocence. For instance, if you're charged with going through a red light, you can ask the officer if at the time the light was red, you were over the white line, and what evidence does he have for that? You can also call Pointts at 1-888-787-1000. They can represent you with accidents too.
The police officer rarely witnesses an accident. When they issue the ticket, they're doing it on reasonable grounds, but they didn't see it. So the advantage you have is that he's a trained witness. But the officer still has to bring other drivers with them. The police officer can't give evidence on something they didn't see, so they can't give evidence on what happened.
Traffic Accidents: Insurance Claims
If you are unhappy with your claims adjuster, there are several options available to you. You can speak with different levels in the insurance company's claims department. Each company is different, so speak to them about it. You may also speak with the company's Ombudsman. If you still are unhappy with the way your claim is being dealt with, you can contact your province's regulatory body on insurance and speak with their Ombudsman.
One of the advantages of using a collision and repair shop such as Car Star is that they offer mediation services for consumers unhappy with their claims. They try to resolve issues that come up between consumers, insurance companies, and repair shops
Traffic Accidents: Repair Shops
As the owner of a motor vehicle damaged in an accident, you have the right to choose the shop where you wish it repaired. This is the law! You should get your vehicle assessed and appraised by at least 3 different body shops. Before you authorize any repairs, notify your insurance company or agent, and tell them where the damaged vehicle can be inspected. You can also call Car Star at 1-800-CAR-STAR to find a Car Star location near you.
While your car is in the shop, you'll probably need a rental vehicle. This is covered under an insurance endorsement called "Loss of use." The price of the endorsement isn't much, and if you do not already have it, you should speak with your broker or agent. If you're at-fault for the accident, your rental vehicle costs will be covered. If you are 100% not at-fault and do not have this endorsement, you may still receive it under the "Direct Compensation" part of the insurance policy. It's best to speak with a broker or agent about this before you get into an accident.
The fear of skyrocketing insurance has many people paying for the damages out of their own pocket. Many body shops now ask whether it's going to be covered through insurance or out of your own pocket. It's important to note that even if the insurance company does not pay a single cent towards the repairs, the law says you need to report it.
For an insurance company, the value of the accident doesn't affect the rate they charge you. A $300 fender bender is 1 accident. So is a $20,000 accident that results in the vehicle being written off. Either way, you're charged with 1 at-fault accident, and your rate will be based on that, not the amount of the claim. Many people have made a small claim of under $500 and then paid thousands of dollars more for it over the years.
Failure to report could lead to charges of misrepresentation, which could cause serious insurance hikes. There are exceptions, and it's important that you speak to a licensed insurance broker or agent to get professional advice on the matter.
Insurance companies will restore the vehicle to the same condition that it was prior to the accident. That means if you banged up the passenger door a few months ago, that will not be repaired for free while they work on the accident damage. Repair shop personnel will know about the damage and how it was done.
As a general rule, if the vehicle is less than 2 years old, you should get the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) part. If it is older, you may get after-market parts or used parts. The OEM part comes from the original manufacturer, the after-market part being produced by a separate company. It's like getting a brand name vs. a lower-cost name. Once the vehicle is fixed, by law you will get a minimum warranty of 3 months, or 5,000 km, whichever comes first. Generally though, you receive a 2-year warranty. You should investigate this when you are calling around for estimates.
Before driving away, check the appearance of the repaired area close up and at a distance, examine the paint for colour match, texture and over-spray, take a test drive to check mechanical repairs, and check that the vehicle is clean. If you are not satisfied, mention your concerns immediately. In most vehicles, the paint will not be an issue unless it is an older vehicle, as the original colour may have faded over time.
Many people think the vehicle will never drive the same if it sustains heavy damage. This is now a myth. It may have been true ten years ago, but with the technology today, frames and unibodies can be repaired to their original condition.
If you have a problem with a garage or a dealer, Car Help Canada can help, including small claims court advice from a lawyer with over 25 years experience in the automotive market on retainer. Or if you used Car Star, you can go through mediation.
Buying A New Or Used Car
Car Help Canada can help you if you're interested in buying a new vehicle. They can save you hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars. They have access to dealer invoices, what the mark-up is, and also works with a network of dealers who will honour a pre-negotiated price. Membership costs $50+GST per year, and this service can save you $800 to $3,000 off the price of a new vehicle, depending on the make and model.
If you are interested in a used vehicle, they also offer information on used vehicles, including vehicle history report, reliability reports, and also has a network of used car dealers. There is also a recommended price that is considered reasonable for that vehicle.