Romanov Report 36 - Apr 4, 2006

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Screwy Accident Rulings

When there's an accident and one driver is found to be "At-Fault", many times the other driver is designated to be "Partially At-Fault". These "partially at-fault" designations send many good drivers' insurance rates skyrocketing.

Private Property and Parking Lots: Accidents happening on private property or in parking lots are notorious for triggering the 50/50 rule, leaving both drivers at least partially at-fault. The problem is that a partially at-fault designation has the same impact as being completely at-fault, when your policy is up for renewal. Two partially at-fault accidents within a 6 year period will cause most insurance companies to cancel your insurance policy.

While there may be justification to increase a driver's rate after causing 1 or 2 accidents, feels there is little justification for these partially at-fault rulings to affect drivers who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We need to speak out about this: At the bottom of this page, we give you an opportunity to do so. But first, allow me to explain how a partially at-fault ruling affected my family, and what I did to get it overturned.

Personal Disaster: Here is the impact that such a ruling had on my mother (Mary) and her husband (Eugene), just two weeks ago. Because I handle their insurance needs, I received a cancellation notice in the mail, first for Eugene's car, then Mary's car.

Eugene had an accident way back in 2000, and has a minor ticket too, but when I called him he didn't know anything about a second accident in 2006 which triggered the cancellation. I called his broker and they confirmed that Eugene had a "partially at-fault" accident in January of this year. That's 2 accidents, 1 ticket. Mary had no tickets or accidents, but because Eugene was named on her policy as the primary driver, she was being cancelled too.

This Could Happen to You

This could happen to any of us. Eugene pulled into the parking lot of his condominium complex, parked his car, and was getting out of it to collect the mail. As he was halfway out of his car, a garbage truck was backing up and didn't see him. The truck hit Eugene's car door. Eugene yelled, the truck stopped, and the driver admitted he was at fault. Eugene told his broker about it, and his insurance company fixed Eugene's car door. BUT they ruled Eugene to be "Partially At-Fault" for the accident.

Partially At-Fault: A "Partially At-Fault" ruling holds as much weight as being "Completely At-Fault" at renewal. As a result, both Eugene and Mary's separate policies were cancelled. Eugene's rate was set to skyrocket from $780 to $4,718, and Mary's from $547 to $2,978. A $6,369 rate hike! Totaling $7,696.

Here's What I Did That Didn't Work

I called Eugene's broker and told them that this wasn't an "accident". Eugene didn't hit anyone. He was getting out of his car and someone backed into him. I was told that "on private parking lots", when there's an accident, the fault is shared 50/50. Too bad, so sad. They didn't even seem to care that I could write about this in the Toronto Star.

Here's What Worked

I got an expert. I found someone in the insurance industry who knows the Insurance Act's "Fault Determination Rules" inside and out. A person far more experienced than perhaps the adjuster, who makes his life easier by ruling an accident as "partially at-fault". My expert said there was a fine line here: If Eugene had opened his car door into the truck that was backing up, he would have been "partially at-fault". But Eugene already had the door open when the truck backed into him, so the "partially at-fault" ruling shouldn't have applied.

Process And The Result: I called the Ombudsman of the insurance company. She directed me to the underwriting manager. I knew I only had one shot at this, so when I called the underwriting manager, I also conferenced in my industry expert. Immediately, the underwriting manager began to explain to me their justification for the "partially at-fault ruling". Then my expert took over and explained the correct application of the rule. Within a couple of minutes, the "partially at-fault" charge was dropped.

WOW: You have to wonder how many other Mary and Eugenes are out there, paying huge insurance rates for "wrecklessly" imposed "partially at-fault" judgments.

If It Happens To You - You Can Fight It: Insurance companies are not heartless, but their rulings are difficult for the average person to navigate. The insurance expert I used only charged me $200 for 3 conversations to solve a $6,369 rate hike.

If you have a problem, in any field, you use a lawyer. In this industry, you need an insurance expert. If your broker or agent can help you, it's free. If they can't, then you have to search for these people. Ask your friends if they know of anyone in the insurance field who could help you. Or call insurance organizations like The Insurance Broker's Association Of Ontario at 416-488-7422 or the Government of Ontario Ombudsman at 416-250-7250, and ask them if they can direct you to an expert in the area in which you need help. You may encounter resistance, but be persistent until you feel you are being dealt with fairly.

We Need to STOP "Partially At-Fault" Rulings

Insurance companies which determine one driver to be "at-fault" and the other driver to be "partially at-fault" cause both drivers' rates to go up. This is a classic case of double dipping.

The distinction should simply be: "Which driver was "mostly at-fault?" And that's the driver whose rate should go up.

The Fault Determination Rules in the Insurance Act need to be changed, but I can guarantee that neither the insurance industry nor government will act unless they begin to hear from drivers about how unfair this ruling is. /atfault.html