"But I swear it wasn't my fault!"
The police may not have charged you. You may feel like there was nothing you could have done to prevent the accident. But the insurance company says you're "at-fault". What does this mean? How will it affect your insurance rate?
What is an "at-fault" accident?
In the eyes of insurance companies, there is always someone at-fault in a car accident. If the police say the accident wasn't your fault, all this means is that you are not going to be charged for causing the accident. But insurance companies have their own definitions of "at-fault."
As a rule of thumb, if you are the only person involved in the collision, you are automatically at-fault if you make a claim with your insurance company. This means, in the winter if your car slides on an ice patch and hits a telephone pole - you are at-fault. If you swerved to avoid hitting a deer and your car ended up in the ditch - you are at-fault.
If you were involved in an accident with another car, then it gets tricky. The insurance company must follow the rules in their province for determining fault. These rules are very specific and can be applied to almost every possible road collision scenario. For example, if you rear-ended someone - you're at-fault. If you made a lane change and sideswiped someone who was in your blindspot - you're at-fault. Even if you don't make a claim on your own insurance policy, the other person might. That leaves you with the "at-fault" accident on your insurance record, and most likely a hefty rate-hike on your renewal.
Ontario's fault-determination rules can be viewed online.
What happens to your auto insurance rate if you have an at-fault accident?
Using the Kanetix.ca auto insurance comparison service, adding one at-fault accident to an otherwise clean driving record to a fictitious 35-year old's quote details can raise the insurance quotes anywhere from 21 to over 190 per cent!*
If you have an at-fault accident on your record it could stay with you for up to 10 years. This means you'll be paying for that accident over and over until it is off your record.
A few insurance companies promote a service called "Accident forgiveness." If you have been with the company for a specified amount of time, and you have a clean driving record (no accidents or tickets), then you might qualify to have your first "at-fault" accident "forgiven." This means if you have an at-fault accident, your rates will only go up a little bit. But if you have a second accident, the company will remember your first one, you will have two accidents on your record, and you will certainly be paying the price.
Some companies even offer accident-forgiveness as an endorsement that can be purchased and added to the policy. Read more about accident-forgiveness, with the Kanetix article: Accident forgiveness: The "new" approach to winning your business.
Compare insurance quotes
Compare insurance quotes for your own car with the Kanetix auto insurance comparison service. See how much you could be saving!
*Quotes were obtained using a fictitious 35-year old driver in Ontario driving a 2007 Toyota Corolla LE 4DR in August 2008.