At-Fault Accident Rules: 10 Common Accidents and Who Is at Fault

Accidents don’t happen — on the road; it’s always someone’s fault, and not only do cars get dinged but so does the cost of car insurance coverage.

“At-fault rules” determine who’s to blame in an automobile accident, and they vary from province to province. Even though Ontario is a no-fault insurance province, it still has Fault Determination Rules, which cover as many as 40 different types of collisions with clear guidance on how to figure out who caused an accident so that all drivers are treated fairly. Alberta, meanwhile, is in the process of reviewing auto insurance to make it more affordable, with indications of it moving to a no-fault model, which could affect a driver’s ability to sue another in the wake of a collision.

No-fault insurance doesn't mean insurance companies don't investigate and determine who is at fault following a collision; Ontario law requires to assign responsibility to each motorist involved in the accident. No-fault insurance system means your insurance provider will process your claim and pay for repairs to your vehicle, regardless of who was at fault.

No matter what province you drive in, someone is usually to blame for an accident, even when bad weather is involved. That’s because drivers make choices on the road, and how they react is what leads to a collision, even if it’s just a minor fender bender.

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10 Common Collisions

In some of the prevalent accidents that happen on roads, highways, parking lots and even driveways, who’s at fault is always not who you think. These 10 frequent auto accidents are the best examples of how you shouldn’t assume you know who is to blame when cars collide:

  1. Getting hit by a car coming out of a driveway. If you're driving along a street and your vehicle is suddenly clipped by a car coming out of someone's driveway, they are entirely at fault for the collision because you had no obligation to stop and let them enter the roadway.
  2. Getting sideswiped. If you’re hugging the line while driving and so is the driver going the other direction, it’s a good chance you’ll be sideswiped. You’ll both share half the blame because you were both driving to close to the centre line, even if you weren’t over it.
  3. Backing up. It’s easier than ever to reverse out of a driveway or parking spot thanks to rear-view cameras, but you still may get hit by another vehicle — and it’s your fault. You’re responsible for making sure it’s clear to back up, not the other driver.
  4. Getting rear-ended in slowing traffic. If you slow down because traffic ahead of you slows down, and the driver behind you rear-ends your car, it’s their fault because it was up them to be aware of what was happening ahead of them.
  5. Getting rear-ended while stopped at a red light. Similarly, if you come to a stop behind another car at a red light, but the driver behind you doesn’t stop and runs into you, causing you to rear-end the car in front of you, it’s not your fault. It was up to the driver behind you to come to a stop at the intersection. And even though you rear-ended the car in front, you’re not at fault for the accident.
  6. Rear-ended while waiting to turn left. If you’ve slowed down to take a left turn, but don’t think you have enough time to beat oncoming traffic, you can stop. If the driver in the car behind you rear-ends you, it’s their fault because they should have slowed down enough in case you couldn’t make your turn.
  7. Rear-ended while trying to pass another car. If you’re driving behind a slower vehicle you’d like to pass, and the car behind rear-ends you forcing you to hit the back of that slower car ahead of you, you share some of the blame. While the driver who rear-ended you is completely at fault, you’re 50% to blame for rear-ending the car in front of you because you weren’t maintaining a safe distance. The only driver not at fault is the slowpoke ahead of you.
  8. U-turn collisions. Even with Google Maps and a GPS, it’s possible to end up going the wrong direction or miss a turn. You think you’re in the clear to do a U-turn because there’s no one behind you and no one coming the other way, but you don’t spot the car coming from a side street that doesn’t see you making the U-turn. You’re at fault for this crash because anyone doing a U-turn who ends up in a collision is 100% at fault.
  9. Multi-car pileups. You’re driving safely on the highway doing the posted speed limit when suddenly you see everyone around you slamming on the brakes. With almost no time to react, you hit the brakes too but find yourself in a 10-car pileup. Whether you hit one or car or several, every driver involved in the collision will be deemed to be 50% at fault.
  10. Open car doors. If you leave your door ajar, regardless of the reason, and another car knocks it off its hinges while driving by, you’re 100% responsible for the accident.

How to Steer Clear of an At-Fault Collision

There is a pattern to determining who’s at fault in these typical accident scenarios. You're responsible for being aware of your surroundings, what's happening on the road in front of you, and with the other drivers around you. If you didn't react quickly enough because you weren't paying attention, it might mean you're responsible for the resulting collision.

Being at fault will affect your auto insurance premium, which is added financial incentive for being aware and careful while behind the wheel. Keeping your premiums low is hard to do if you are in an at-fault collision, so stay alert, and you’ll keep you driving record clean.

Even if you’re a good driver, there’s always a chance you’ll get in a minor fender bender and be concerned about your insurance rate. The good news is that some providers are more forgiving than others, so be sure to compare the rate your current insurer offers you to the best rates available.

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