Car accidents happen to just about everyone, which is why we have car insurance. Your car insurance will pay for repairs to your car, repairs to the other vehicle, compensate for any property damage, and reimburse for costs incurred because of injuries. All of this makes it possible for us to own vehicles, but, as we are all keenly aware, an at-fault accident comes with consequences.
If you have been determined to be at fault after a car accident, unless you have accident forgiveness on your insurance, you can expect that your premiums will go up. Just how much depends on the type of accident, your driving record, and your insurer.
What Exactly is an At-Fault Accident?
An at-fault accident is one where the insurance company has determined that your actions were 51% or more the cause of the accident. How fault is determined is complicated, but the general parameters are relatively similar across the spectrum of insurance providers.
Common situations where drivers will more than likely be determined at fault include:
- Driving while distracted
- Driving while under the influence
- Failing to obey traffic signals and laws
- Rear-ending another vehicle
- Backing up into traffic and causing an accident
- Opening a vehicle door into traffic so that someone driving by hits it
Never Admit Fault
Although it may seem like the right thing to do, you should never admit any fault at the scene of an accident. Leave this up to the insurance companies and law enforcement to figure out. They have the knowledge and expertise to do so. Be honest and straightforward about what happened (lying is actually a form of insurance fraud and could even be a criminal offence), but, again, refuse the temptation to take the blame. Just state the facts.
When Do I Have to Report an Accident?
The Calgary Police Service (CPS) describes a traffic collision as “when a motor vehicle contacts another object on a highway.” This means if you hit anything, including a fixed object such as a fence or a light standard, you have been in a collision. You are required to report an accident if there is damage to public property, if the damage to your vehicle exceeds $2,000, or if you are the victim of a hit and run.
Every accident is different. The most important thing to do if you are in an accident is to make sure you and everyone else is unharmed. Then, if possible, move to a safe space off the road. If you can’t, it’s highly advisable to call the police, who can come and help secure the scene until your vehicles can be moved. If you are in a dangerous situation, such as in the middle of a busy road, call 911. In other cases, call the police non-emergency line at 403-266-1234. Even if everything seems minor, what with the value of today’s vehicles, it doesn’t take much to exceed $2,000 in damage.
It’s also advisable to take as many photos as is safe to do so at the scene. If you can’t take pictures at the scene, take them later. This will help your insurance company expedite your claim.
If you choose to not call the police, you only have 24 hours to get a damage assessment done and contact the authorities if needed. This is a good reminder to always check around your vehicle before you jump in and drive away. If you have been the victim of a hit and run, it’s very important to note the damage as quickly as possible.
At one of the CPS’s district offices you will be asked to fill out a collision report with the time and date of the accident, the name and license number of whoever was driving your vehicle, and details about the accident. They will then provide you with a sticker to place in the windshield of your vehicle. Without the sticker auto body shops will not be able to carry out any repairs.
If you are ever in an accident and you are not sure if it should be reported, the CPS provides a quick and useful checklist. It reminds drivers of the $2,000 minimum damage limit, as well as the information that should be obtained from any other party involved. Fields to fill out include the other driver’s name, contact information, license number, vehicle information, and insurance information.
Tickets and Convictions
If you are in an at-fault accident and police have attended the scene, chances are a traffic ticket might come along with it, and, of course, the accompanying demerit points. This could be a double whammy on your insurance. First your provider will take into account the at-fault accident, then they may throw in your ticket on top of that. Remember, too, that even if the police were not at the scene of your accident, it is not unheard of for a ticket to be issued after the fact. And any criminal conviction for actions such as dangerous driving, driving under the influence, or leaving the scene of an accident will more than likely result in your insurance being cancelled altogether.
Insurance Brokers Can HelpProfessional insurance brokers like those of us at Lane’s are experts at finding insurance for the supposedly uninsurable. We are connected with a number of insurance companies who provide high-risk insurance packages for those with less-than-perfect driving records. After an at-fault accident, if your car insurance has gotten out of control, give us a call at our our Calgary, Banff, Edmonton, or greater Alberta offices to see what we can do for you.