Last week, in response to a reader who had a minor crash while passing through a yellow light at an intersection, I strongly suggested fighting any traffic ticket, especially if you're involved in an accident.
If you don't, it will have you seeing red when your insurance rate skyrockets.
It's important to know that the police officer who issues you the ticket is not the judge and jury. You're not convicted until you willingly assume fault by paying for the ticket or if the court finds you guilty.
In last week's article, I gave advice on how to prepare for court and win. Assuming your case gets dismissed or you're found not guilty, the next step is now to ensure that your insurance company doesn't consider you to be at fault for the accident.
For our reader's situation, I've used Ontario's Fault Determination Rules to see if the fault ruling can be fought. Other provinces would follow similar rulings, although their position on fault would more closely reflect the rulings that have come out of their own provincial court cases.
In this case, where an incident occurred at an intersection with traffic signals, Rule 15 of the Fault Determination Rules would more than likely apply. (I've posted the full fault rulings at RomanovReport.com.)
In Rule 15, the first condition states that if the driver of an automobile fails to "obey a traffic signal" they're 100 per cent at-fault for the incident, and the driver of the other automobile is not at-fault. This shows how critical it is to fight a traffic ticket, as fault for the accident can depend on it.
In our driver's case he was issued a ticket for going through a yellow light. Many drivers are not aware that a yellow light means stop, unless unsafe to do so. If our driver proved to the court that it was unsafe for him to stop at the yellow light, and the ticket was dismissed, he would not be subject to this fault ruling.
The rule also says that if it cannot be established whether the driver of either automobile failed to obey a traffic signal, the driver of each automobile shall be deemed to be 50 per cent at-fault for the incident.
As mentioned, if the court finds our driver "not guilty" of disobeying the traffic light, he now has the opportunity to make the argument to the adjuster that it was the other driver that failed to obey the traffic signal.
Many drivers simply let the insurance adjuster "do their job." That said, if there were no witnesses and two opposing stories, adjusters will impose a 50/50 fault ruling. But it's important that you're not ruled to be even partially at-fault, as this will bring you the same insurance rate penalties as being completely at-fault.
Brian Lawrie, founder of traffic-ticket legal specialists POINTTS.com says it's important to impress on drivers that "the adjuster is not your friend. They work for the insurance company, and their primary job is to save the insurance company money. That may conflict with how you want them to rule, so you can't be passive about it."
You need to become involved as adjusters take in all the facts before making a final determination. I've found myself having to deal with an adjuster when they wanted to deem my stepfather to be 50 per cent at fault for a parking lot incident. I arranged a three-way conference call with the adjuster and an insurance professional specializing in fault rulings - and the fault ruling was overturned.
If you don't agree with the adjuster's decision, escalate it to the insurance industry's ombudsman. The General Insurance OmbudService provides consumers of car, home and business insurance in Canada with an independent and impartial process to resolve their complaints. You can go to GIOCanada.org for more information.
The bottom line is you can fight a ticket, and there's help for you to do so. Effort is definitely involved, but when you compare it to the financial consequences, it's well worth it.
Do you have an insurance or traffic-ticket headache? E-mail your question to Lee at email@example.com