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

July 20, 2021
5 mins
Car Accident

When a car accident happens, it’s always someone’s fault. 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 mulling over switching to a no-fault system to make insurance more affordable. A final decision by the provincial government is expected sometime this summer.

No-fault insurance doesn't mean insurance companies don't investigate and determine who is at fault following a collision; Ontario law requires insurers 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 is caused the collision.

No matter what province you live in, someone is usually to blame for an accident, even when bad weather is involved. That’s because drivers make choices, 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 accidents that happen on our roads, highways, parking lots and even driveways, who’s at fault is not always clear cut. Here are 10 common collisions and who is potentially 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 centre line while driving as is the driver going in the other direction, there’s a chance you’ll both be sideswiped. In this instance, you’ll both share the blame because you were both driving too 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 if you are, 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’s up them to be aware of what is happening in front 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, in turn, 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 full stop at the intersection.

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 and stopped in case you couldn’t make the turn.

7. Rear-ended while trying to pass another car.

If you’re driving behind a slower vehicle you’d like to pass, and a car behind you rear-ends your vehicle forcing you to hit the back of that slower car ahead of you, you both share 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 in front.

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, and what's happening on the road in front of you. If you didn't react quickly enough because you weren't paying attention, it might mean you're responsible for the resulting collision.

An at-fault collision remains on your driving record for six years and will affect your car insurance premium, which is added financial incentive for being aware and careful while behind the wheel.

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.

Liam Lahey

Liam Lahey is a versatile, seasoned writer and editor. He worked as both a staff writer and freelance writer for many business and technology publications as well as for several newspapers. He writes about home, auto, and travel insurance, and is a media spokesperson for RATESDOTCA.

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