How does an at-fault accident affect my car insurance?

December 3rd, 2019

Two men trying to assign fault at the scene of a car accident.

Depending on the province you live in, who is at fault in an accident is incredibly important: it determines who will pay for injuries and damage in an accident and whose insurance rates will go up. Being at-fault in an accident can significantly impact your insurance, especially if you also receive a ticket or criminal conviction. We’ll discuss how an at-fault accident affects your car insurance in this article.

At-Fault Accidents Affect Car Insurance Rates

If you’re the at-fault driver in an accident, your car insurance rates will increase. The only exception is if you have an Accident Waiver (also known as SEF39 or Driving Record Protection) which will waive the first accident you have so your premiums will not go up. However, you will need to keep paying for this coverage and it will not apply if you change auto insurance companies. Keep in mind this coverage isn’t always applicable or available to everyone – and you’ll also need to have it on your policy before the accident.

How much your car insurance goes up will depend on the province, your insurer, and the cost of the accident.

At-Fault Accidents, Tickets, and Criminal Convictions

Being at-fault in an accident doesn’t mean you’ll get a ticket. For example, poor weather conditions contribute to many accidents and you may not get a ticket even if you’re considered to be at fault (i.e. the roads were very icy and you slid into another vehicle despite having proper following distance). 

However, in other cases, you will be given a ticket. This can include:

  • Failing to remain at the scene of an accident
  • Careless driving
  • Failure to stop
  • Following to closely
  • Crossing the centerline or traffic lane violation
  • Improper passing or turning
  • Speeding
  • Failure to obey a traffic sign or control device

Insurance companies aren’t concerned with the number of demerit points or fine amounts, they’re simply concerned about the number of traffic violations you have and their severity. 

There are two levels of severity: regular and serious. A regular traffic violation may not result in an increase to your auto insurance rates, but after the first one, you will notice a significant impact on your rates. Two regular traffic violations can result in a 20% surcharge. 

A single serious traffic violation can have even more impact – a 20% surcharge right off the bat. A second one will be an additional 50% surcharge to your auto insurance premiums. 

A criminal conviction can result in your car insurance policy being voided or an extreme hike in your rates. The exact charges and consequences will vary by province.

Why do my car insurance rates go up if I’m at-fault in an accident?

Your auto insurance rates will go up if you’re at fault in an accident because it is your insurance that must pay for the damages you caused to other parties. This is covered under third party liability insurance and accident benefits coverage, mandatory in every province across Canada. It covers the following:

  • Accident benefits of those involved in the accident, including medical expenses and income replacement
  • Repair or replacement of damaged vehicles and other property
  • Legal expenses if you’re sued

Keep in mind that this coverage isn’t exhaustive – you’ll have a policy limit. So if you have $1,000,000 third party liability insurance coverage, that’s the most that will be paid out. If the costs are higher, you’ll be paying those out of pocket. That’s one reason why adequate third party liability insurance protection is essential for drivers!

Our car insurance brokers can help answer any questions you might have about auto insurance or what happens if you’re at-fault in an accident. 

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