This article has been updated from a previous version.
No matter how long you’ve been driving or how clean your record is, accidents can happen to anyone at any time. In fact, there are more than 100,000 collisions in Canada each year. Being involved in one can have a serious impact on your insurance.
If you get into a collision and you’re found to be at fault — even partially — your insurance could take a hit, too. While insurance companies assign different percentages of fault to each party involved in a collision, any level of fault is a risk to your insurance rate.
According to the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA), if you are found to be 50% or more at fault, you could see your premium go up the next time you renew your policy. (How much your rate will increase will depend on the situation, but your insurance company will notify you of the changes at the time of renewal.)
That said, there are a few instances in which an at-fault collision won’t impact your insurance rate.
If you have an accident forgiveness endorsement
Accident forgiveness is additional coverage you can purchase to protect yourself against a premium increase after your first at-fault collision. Drivers who have this optional coverage will have their first collision “forgiven” — so long as they’ve been accident-free and licensed for six years.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that accident forgiveness insurance cannot be purchased after an accident has occurred. The coverage must be in place before you have an at-fault collision in order to avoid having it increase your rate.
In addition, your accident forgiveness coverage doesn’t transfer if you change insurance companies. A new company will evaluate your driving record, including any collisions, when determining your rate.
How long it takes an at-fault collision to clear from your record will depend on where you live, the nature of the accident, and the insurance company. Each province has its own guidelines and criteria for accident forgiveness eligibility. Speak to an insurance broker to see if you meet all requirements for your home province.
If you’re involved in a minor at-fault collision in Ontario
Another instance where an at-fault collision would not impact a person’s insurance rate is if they live in Ontario and are involved in a minor at-fault collision.
According to this guideline from the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario (FSRA):
“Insurers can no longer use a minor at-fault accident that occurs on or after June 1, 2016, meeting certain criteria to increase your premium. The criteria include that no payment has been made by any insurer, that there are no injuries, and that damages to each car and property were less than $2,000 per car and were paid by the at-fault driver. This provision is limited to one minor accident every three years.”
This means that minor at-fault collisions will not have an impact on a driver’s premium. Keep in mind, however, that automotive repair work can be quite costly, so this guideline really only applies to the most minor of accidents.
If you “buy back” your claim or have been collision-free for 10 years (Manitoba and B.C. drivers only)
In British Columbia, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) will forgive one at-fault accident after 20 years of driving experience (at least 10 of those must be in B.C.), provided you have been collision-free for the last 10 years. The ICBC also confirmed in an interview with RATESDOTCA that if you’re found to be 25% or less at fault for a collision, your insurance rate will not be impacted.
In Manitoba, drivers have the option to “buy back” their at-fault claim, in order to prevent it from going on their record and affecting their insurance rate. The driver essentially pays back the provincial insurance company for any payments made on their behalf as the result of an at-fault collision.
While being involved in an at-fault collision can have an impact on your insurance rate, an increase isn’t always guaranteed. Of course, if you do find yourself facing a premium increase, one of the smartest things you can do is compare car insurance rates to ensure you’re still getting the best rate for your situation.
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