Everyone knows that an at-fault accident affects how much you pay for auto insurance. But for how long? Technically, it stays on your record forever, but most companies use it for six or nine years to determine whether they want to insure you at all, and if so, to help set your premium. Some companies use it for up to 25 years.
Insurance companies use dozens of different pieces of information about you, your car and your driving history to determine how likely you are to make claims and how costly those claims are likely to be. Commonly referred to as rating factors, these data points are then used to arrive at your final auto insurance premium.
One of the rating factors that can have the biggest impact on how much you pay is whether or not you have been found at fault for an accident.
An at-fault accident technically remains on your driving record forever. Most insurance companies will use it as a rating factor for six or nine years, and some will use it for up to 25. That clock starts ticking the second the accident happens.
On the other hand, insurers can only use tickets as a rating factor for three years, but that clock starts ticking on the conviction date. If you take the ticket to court, that can take a year sometimes. So if you get in an accident and are charged as a result, the timeline for the ticket usually won’t be the same as the timeline for the at-fault accident.
Every time your vehicle is involved in an accident, your insurance company will investigate it based information from police or the collision reporting centre. The insurance company will always assign fault for the accident to someone.
They can’t just assign fault however they want though. They have to follow the Fault Determination Rules set out by the Ontario government. These rules contemplate every possible accident scenario, and spell out which driver is at fault in each one. In some cases, two or more drivers can be found to be partially at fault for the same accident. Sadly, if you’re found more than 25% at fault, it affects your insurance premium just as much as if you’re 100% at fault.
If you disagree with your insurer’s determination of fault, you can appeal the decision to the company’s ombudsman. If you do that and still disagree with the outcome, you can take the matter to the province’s ombudsman.
Important note: If you get in a fender bender and don’t report it, it can still go on your record as an at-fault accident if someone else reports it.
If you have one at-fault accident on your record, it can increase your premium by as little as 20% or as much as 200%, depending on if you stay with the same insurance company. If you have more than one at-fault, your premium can triple or worse. If you also have tickets on your record, that can make it even problematic for you to find affordable insurance. Most companies won’t increase your premium in the middle of the policy, but you will pay more on renewal.
Some insurance companies offer accident forgiveness. This perk is usually only offered to drivers with clean driving records. If your policy includes accident forgiveness, that means that your first at-fault accident (within a six-year period) won’t count against you in terms of how much you pay for auto insurance. If you then get in another at-fault accident within those six years, that second accident will count as your first, and so on.
To be clear, you can’t just ask for forgiveness after the accident. Accident forgiveness only applies if it’s a feature of the insurance policy you bought, and it will be clearly spelled out in the policy.
Every insurance company in Canada has a common system called Autoplus, where all claims are recorded. They also have access to your driver’s abstract, which will show all tickets and suspensions on your driving record in the past 3 years. All insurance companies can access your record using your driver’s license number.
When you’re shopping for auto insurance, the broker will ask you questions about your driving record, then give you quotes that are based on your answers. If you have tickets or accidents that you don’t tell your broker about, you may get cheaper quotes, but when you make the decision to buy through that broker, they will request your Autoplus record, and your final price will be based on what’s in the system.
If by chance your broker doesn’t request your Autoplus record, you’re not out of the woods. If you have a claim any time in the future and it comes out that you lied about your driving history, your claim could be denied and you could be cancelled for misrepresentation, which will impact your premium much more severely than an at-fault accident.
The best policy, as your mom taught you, is to always tell the truth. Having an at-fault accident on your record is not ideal, but there are worse things, and if you drive carefully, in a few years it will all just be a distant memory.
If you have a less-than-perfect driving record, there are a number of insurance companies that would still be happy to insure you. Mitchell & Whale works with more than 40 different insurers, so when you call us for a quote, you can feel confident that you’re getting the best deal available.
Want to add to this story? Let us know in comments below! Mitchell & Whale is a fast-growing insurance brokerage in Ontario, striving to make insurance _not suck_ one customer at a time. Give us a call today to discuss any of your insurance needs at 1.800.731.2228.