7 Things to Consider When Reporting That Car Accident

By Hayley Vesh
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If you’re worried about every minor at-fault collision bumping up your insurance premium, you’ll feel better knowing that because of changes released in 2016 by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) — which is now the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA) — your insurance company can no longer use every minor at-fault collision as reason to raise your premium.

“Insurers can no longer use a minor at-fault accident that occurs on or after June 1, 2016 meeting certain criteria to increase your premium,” the regulator’s online brochure states. "The criteria include that no payment has been made by any insurer, that there are no injuries, and that damages to each car and property were less than $2,000 per car and were paid by the at-fault driver. This provision is limited to one minor accident every three years.”

Here are seven things you need to consider when submitting a car insurance claim or deciding to pay for the damage yourself.

1. Reporting the collision

In Ontario, you don’t need to report a collision to the police if the total damage to all vehicles is below $2,000, as long as there are no injuries, property damage, or suspicions of impaired driving or illegal activities.

However, you should always notify your insurance company of any collision or damage involving your car. If you don’t and your insurance company finds out, they could cancel your policy. If your damage is under the $2,000 threshold, you don’t have to file a claim. If you are thinking of filing a claim, however, make sure you consider what your rate increase will be. Remember, your rate increase will last up to six years.

If your car was involved in a collision with a hit-and-run driver (including being hit while your vehicle is parked), you will have to pay your deductible, but your rates shouldn’t increase. A police report will be required for this to be considered a not-at-fault collision. Most insurance companies require that you notify the police within 24 hours before they’ll consider it to be a hit and run.

You’ll also need to report the collision at the nearest collision reporting centre, which has a service where you can report your accident to your insurance company. The collision reporting centre will provide you with a record for your notes. If you are planning to make a claim, you need to report your collision to the insurance company if the damage exceeds $2,000 for both cars.

If you don’t notify your insurance company of an accident, whether you are at fault or not, and the other party makes a claim through their insurance, your insurance provider will find out about it.

2. Determining fault

Ontario auto insurance companies use a set of fault determination rules to determine who is at fault for a collision. If you are found at fault, the accident can stay on your driving record for six years and may increase your insurance rate.

When reporting a collision, police determine if there has been a violation of the law. Your insurance company will still determine fault and, ultimately, if your insurance rate will increase. Even if the police determine an accident was not your fault, you can still be surprised by your insurance company finding otherwise. If you are ever confused about insurance policy wording, speak to your broker to clarify what is included in your policy.

3. Seeking help

If you question the finding of your at-fault determination, you can always seek a second opinion from legal counsel or other expert body.

The General insurance Ombudservice (GIO) is an organization set up to impartially mediate between insurance companies and drivers with respect to the fault determination rules. In other words, if you have a disagreement with your insurance company that you can't sort out on your own, you aren’t out of luck. The GIO will help you resolve your dispute. The GIO’s service is free of charge and available in French and English from anywhere in Canada.

4. Your insurance rate

A driver with an at-fault collision can see their car insurance rate jump by as much as 30% and remain high for six years. If a driver has another at-fault collision during this time, they may be considered a high-risk driver and find it difficult to obtain affordable insurance.

Insurance companies factor in a lot of details when generating rates for drivers. Rates may vary slightly based on the type of vehicle someone drives or their location but there are vast differences between drivers with a clean record and those with collisions.

After a collision, take the increase in rate your insurance company quoted you and multiply that number by six — the number of years your premium will increase for — to see how much the collision will really cost you.

For example, let’s say you find yourself facing a rate increase of $500 a year for six years. If the cost to repair your damage is only $1,000, you might be best to fix it out of pocket rather than file a claim and pay potentially $3,000 over time (500 x 6) for the damage through insurance.

If you choose to submit your claim through insurance, switching insurance providers when your policy renews may not help you lessen the amount you’ll pay through your current company for those same damages. Each driver’s profile is different so be sure to compare quotes. You could save money by switching your coverage to a new insurance company, especially as time goes on. You may find an insurance provider with a lower rate as your accident gets “older.”

5. Paying for and repairing the damage

Choosing to pay your own claim if the damage is below $2,000 can save you money in the long run, especially if your deductible is on the high end. If you choose to pay for your own damage your insurance premium won’t increase.

Insurance companies have preferred repair shops, but the decision to have your car repaired wherever you like is up to you. The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) suggests that the preferred-shop program helps control claim costs, and ensures repairs meet high standards.

The insurance company will deal directly with its preferred shop on your behalf and guarantee the work is done properly.

The IBC notes, “If you choose a shop that’s not in your insurance company’s preferred shop program, you will be responsible for managing the repair. Be aware that the insurance provider will not pay more than the price that its repairer quoted.”

6. Filing a claim

If you have had a prior accident within the last six years, or tickets in the past three years, your insurance company could cancel your policy. A combination of wrongdoings could designate you a high-risk driver. You should ask your insurance broker about cancellation conditions that may be in your policy before submitting a claim.

To see how many traffic tickets you have on your record you will need to order your driver’s abstract from ServiceOntario. Insurance companies can increase your rate for three years from the date of conviction for a ticket. Tickets insurance companies charge for range from minor to serious and can have more repercussions than a simple fine.

An auto history report (Autoplus) is free from Conseillers en Gestion et Informatique (CGI) and will list all prior claims history since you received your driver’s licence. It is important to see what claims you may have already submitted through any insurance company.

If you have a good driving record you may qualify for accident forgiveness coverage. For an additional cost, the coverage can wipe away the effects of an at-fault collision after a driver’s first offence. But this coverage won’t transfer to a new company if you switch insurance providers. The accident will still appear on your driving record.

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7. Comparing rates

If your premium does rise as a result of an at-fault collision, you still have options. You can shop the market right away to see if another insurance provider is willing to offer you a lower rate based on your driving history. Alternatively, you can compare insurance rates annually as the collision on your record gets older and older and has less bearing on your premium.