What Does No-Fault Auto Insurance Mean?

What Does No-Fault Auto Insurance Mean?


At first blush, Ontario’s no-fault auto insurance system doesn’t live up to its name. The idea is not that no one is at-fault when you are involved in an accident, as the name suggests.

Rather, the system is designed so you deal directly with your insurance company for compensation—not the at-fault driver—when you are injured or your car is damaged.

The same concept applies to passengers in your car at the time of an accident. If they are injured, they seek compensation through their auto insurance policy, not yours. An exception to this rule is when your passengers do not have coverage. In that case, your insurance company may compensate them for their injuries.

Likewise, the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident files a claim with his or her insurance company.


Once you file a claim with your insurer, Ontario law requires them to assign a percentage of fault to each driver involved using the Fault Determination Rules. These rules were drafted in 1990 as regulations under the Insurance Act to help auto insurance companies process claims more quickly and cost-effectively. They are completely separate from any traffic charges the police might file against you under the Highway Traffic Act.

Based on these rules, your insurer may find that you are partially, fully, or not at-fault.


Let’s say you are driving in icy conditions and are unable to stop your car in time. As a result, you hit the back of another vehicle. The police takes into account the weather condition and let you go without filing charges. To cover damages to your vehicle, you file a claim with your auto insurance and they apply the Fault Determination Rules, which state that a driver that rear-ends another car is automatically at-fault no matter what the road conditions may be (or whether they were charged by police).

The deductible you pay will be determined by the percentage of fault your insurance company assigns to you, and your premiums may increase on your next policy renewal if you are found to be partly or fully at-fault.


If you disagree with the percentage of fault assigned to you, you may file a consumer complaint with your insurance company’s Ombudsman Liaison Officer. If the complaint is not resolved to your satisfaction, you can contact the Ontario Insurance Ombudsman or take the matter to court.


For example, you could be stopped behind another vehicle at a red light. The driver in front of you realizes he is interfering with the pedestrian crossing, backs up his vehicle a couple of feet ….. and forgets to switch gears back to ‘drive’.  So, when the light turns green, he backs into your vehicle.

Unfortunately, the person may try to shift the blame and reports that YOU rear-ended his vehicle. In cases like this, it is crucial to gather as much information as possible at the scene of the accident, including videos, photos and witnesses.

Do I Need a Backwater Valve?

Do I Need a Backwater Valve?

If you think having your home flooded with water is bad, just imagine if it were sewage.

A mainline backwater valve is placed directly into the sewer lateral at the foot of your basement wall. The device allows sewage to flow in only one direction – out of your house. When sewage begins to move toward your basement, the valve closes.

This valve is installed directly into the sanitary sewer lateral, and serves to protect all home plumbing fixtures from sewer backup.

Backwater valve - basement flooding protection

Some municipalities offer subsidies to offset the cost of installing a backwater valve, as long as you follow their rules.  (For example, you can read about Toronto’s Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program here)

Make sure you install the type of valve recommended by your municipality. In most cases they require the normally open (or open-port) mainline backwater valve. This valve is installed directly into the sanitary sewer lateral, and serves to protect all home plumbing fixtures from sewer backup.

Installation of the backwater valve may reduce the cost of insurance or be required as a condition of insurability.



The valve should be installed based on the manufacturer’s installation instructions, which have specifications for placement and grading. Proper placement and installation of the backwater valve is extremely important. If placed in the wrong location relative to other plumbing fixtures on the sanitary lateral, the valve could be bypassed and provide no protection. This can in turn lead to sewer backup pressure which can cause cracks to the basement floor and lead to flooding.

If the weeping tiles are still connected to the sanitary sewer lateral downstream of the valve, sewage could be forced back into the weeping tiles and lead to structural damage to the foundation, which can also lead to infiltration flooding.

Like other parts of your home, backwater valves require periodic maintenance to ensure proper performance. An improperly maintained valve may fail during a flood. Most mainline backwater valves come with a see-through top so you can check to see if it is clogged with debris.

The valve should be checked regularly to ensure that it will function properly when it is needed. You will likely need the help of a qualified plumber to carry out maintenance of the valve.

After a backwater valve has been installed do not use plumbing, such as flushing toilets, running dishwashers, washing machines, or running taps, etc. during intense rainfall. If the home plumbing is used when the backwater valve is closed, water will have no way to exit your home until the valve has reopened.

If you’re not sure if the valve is closed, check it – you should be able to see it through the clear, plastic top.

Is Your Coverage Enough To Replace Everything You Own?

Is Your Coverage Enough To Replace Everything You Own?

If you lost everything you own in a fire tonight, would your current homeowners insurance be enough to cover your total loss?

Chances are, if you are like a number of homeowners, it will not.

Sadly, many people miscalculate the value of their possessions and are left frustrated when a tragedy happens.

By taking the steps outlined below you can have peace of mind that, if something unfortunate ever occurs, you have an accurate inventory of all your belongings and have enough coverage to replace them.


Catalog your possessions and what they are worth. Six easy ways to keep an accurate record include:

  • Snap a photo — smart phones and digital cameras make this easy.
  • Take a video tour — use the video on your smart phone or camcorder to capture your belongings room by room.
  • Write down the details — support your visual record with a written list that offers details on serial numbers, make, model and any other pertinent information.
  • Save receipts for high-dollar purchases.
  • Update your list annually and when you make a major purchase.
  • Keep your inventory records in a safety deposit box or other secure location outside your home.

Smart Tips:

You could use an app called Evernote to accomplish all of the above.

Update your inventory list on your annual policy renewal date.


If anything is certain it’s that things change. The initial limit you selected for your insurance policy was based on the belongings you had at that time.

Ask yourself these five questions when checking your coverage:

  • Would the estimated value shown on your policy pay to replace everything in your home today?
  • Have you taken into account the cost to replace your items at current prices?
  • Have you included the cost to replace less obvious things like clothes, kitchen appliances and tools, air purifiers, portable electronics (tablets, MP3 players, laptops, gaming consoles and accessories) and furniture?
  • Have you factored in the cost to replace antiques and other unique valuables? If so, be sure to add them to your policy with a certificate of appraisal.
  • Does your policy have coverage limits for computers, bikes or jewellery? If these limits do not cover your items, talk to your insurance broker about adding options that protect you.

While it is tempting to save money on premiums by reducing your coverage, doing so can end up costing you more if a tragedy occurs that results in the loss of all your possessions. It is worth spending the extra few dollars each month to ensure you have adequate coverage when it counts.

Smart Tips:

  • Include taxes when you update your inventory.
  • Change your policy immediately if the value of your belongings is greater than the value listed on your policy.
  • Do not over-insure or under-insure your possessions.
Host Liquor Liability and You

Host Liquor Liability and You


Liquor is usually available to most of us on a regular basis. It’s there at dinner parties, barbeques, birthdays, weddings and other special events like banquets, awards ceremonies and charity fundraisers. Whether you are an individual or a corporation, as soon as you become the “host”, you suddenly have the burden of responsibility to ensure that nothing bad happens as a result of being connected to the supply of that alcohol.

‘Host Liquor Liability’ refers to your responsibility when you are considered the ‘host’ providing and/or serving liquor to others.

If property is damaged or worse, someone is injured or killed and a court of law decided that you were somehow involved by virtue of the “event” you hosted where liquor was available, you could find yourself in a whole heap of trouble.


Businesses need to ensure that their broker is aware of all the activities and operations of their business, including any event hosting, holiday parties or fundraising, etc. Provided that the insurance company is aware of these activities, and you have met the requirements of the insurance policy, then the liability coverage should respond. Make sure you have adequate limits of coverage.

Depending on the nature of your business operations, your policy might specifically exclude liquor liability. If you are an individual, then your property insurance policy may or may not cover you adequately.


There is a way to avoid compromising future premiums or insurability as a result of having a liquor liability claim on your policy:

There are ‘Special Event’ policies that can be obtained for your specific occasion that will provide exactly what you need. These policies are a non-renewing, one-time coverage for a specified period, usually at very reasonable premiums. This way, if there is a claim, it’s not your business or personal policy that will respond (or be affected).

There are other inherent benefits as well. For example; often when your special event is at another venue, that venue will ask for a ‘certificate of insurance’ and the venue might ask to be added as an ‘additional insured’ to the coverage. Most personal property insurance companies would not want to provide either the certificate or the extension of coverage to the venue. That certificate is not an issue with the companies that provide these ‘Special Event’ policies.

Speak to your broker about how to best protect yourself against ‘Host Liquor Liability’ for your next occasion. Once your broker has you covered, you can relax and enjoy!

Snow Birds and Winter Vacations …

Snow Birds and Winter Vacations …


The winter months are on the horizon and the snow birds are preparing to head south. For us lowly humans who still have to work, but may be able to slip away for a week or two during the winter months, here are some important insurance items to remember.

When leaving your home, condominium, or apartment for more then 3 consecutive days during the normal heating season (this period of time may vary depending on the insurance company), your insurance will not pay for water damage caused by freezing UNLESS you do one the following:

  • Arrange for a competent person to enter your home daily to make sure the heat is maintained in order to avoid the possibility of pipes freezing.

Better yet, you should consider having them enter every room to ensure no damage has occurred.


  • Turn off the water supply coming into the home and bleed all the pipes, drains and appliances before you leave.


  • Have your plumbing and heating systems connected to a monitored alarm station providing 24 hour service.

In addition, as a property owner, you have a duty of care to make sure your property is safe for access for two different types of visitors:


A group of visitors who enter other people’s property for their own personal benefit or to perform their professional duties (firefighters, postal workers and utility companies); and


A group of people who enter another person’s premises at the invitation of the owner.

Therefore, snow removal and salting would be important to arrange while you are away in order to avoid a bodily injury or slip and fall claim. It is highly recommended that you review your home insurance policy to better understand your coverage, limitations and conditions. Your insurance broker can help you better understand your policy.

These are just a few suggestions regarding your property to keep in mind prior to your departure. Other than that, have a great time, enjoy the sun, wear sun block and don’t forget your travel insurance!

Protect Your Home from Winter Weather

Protect Your Home from Winter Weather

A unifying feature of being Canadian is the constant struggle with extreme winter weather.

Every winter we brace ourselves for the accompanying heavy snowfall and ice buildups by wrapping ourselves warm and putting winter tires on cars. However …

…. Are we doing enough, if anything at all, to minimize damage to our homes during such weather?

There are in fact a number of key things that homeowners can do ahead of time to prevent as much damage as possible. The first step is building a general level of awareness about their home and community’s vulnerability to severe winter weather.

  • Look at your local government website for any area-specific advice on protecting your home.
  • Have your municipality recommend a good home inspector to examine your home’s capacity to handle heavy snow loads and to determine the age of key structures such as interior plumbing.
  • Figure out whether you are in a snow belt area and thus in need of special precautions.

After assessing your level of risk, take targeted action to protect your home.

Start with your roof. The pressure generated from a significant amount of snowfall, freezing rain or a series of snow events can cause a roof to collapse. Look at the slope of your roof: the less it slopes, the more exposed it is to heavy snow and ice build-up. Aim for a slope that is greater than 10cm vertically and 30cm horizontally.

  • After a winter storm, check your roof for any new water leaks from the roof or attic, new internal door jams, new cracks in the drywall or plaster, and/or sagging on the ridge-line (where the two sides of the roof meet) on sloped roofs. Any of these are warning signs of an imminent roof collapse, and so if you notice these indicators take swift action to remove snow and ice buildup.
  • While it is always best to call a professional contractor to do these tasks, in the event that you remove buildup yourself there are a few techniques to keep in mind.
  • For snow removal, purchase a long snow rake with an extendable arm.
  • After removing snow layers, drain ice using electric heating cables to melt the buildup, or alternatively make use of a chemical de-icer by punching a hole in the ice every three feet that exposes the roof surface and fill each hole with the chemical.
  • Watch out for ice dams – a ride of ice that develops at the edge of your roof or drains which prevents snow or water from melting off your roof, subsequently causing leaks into walls and ceilings from the water that gets blocked behind the ice.
  • Look for attic penetrations, remove any roof heat sources from your attic, insulate any heat incandescent light fixtures, and seal any vents between your attic roof.

Finally, whenever the time comes to re-roof, have a secondary moisture or snow and ice barrier installed to prevent heat loss. Maintain your roof constantly to ensure drainage systems are free of debris and working properly.

Frozen pipes are a second main area of concern. They can cause water to back up and the pipe to rupture leading to substantial damage.

  • Before winter arrives, make sure to insulate any exposed pipes.
  • Seal any leaks that can seep into the house and lower temperatures, and disconnect garden hoses and shut the indoor valves that control water flow into the house.
  • Keep your thermostat temperature constant throughout the day, making sure when you’re out of the house that it is no lower that 12C (54F).
  • During a power outage, turn off the main water valve coming into your home to stop freezing in the pipes.

​Winter is Canada’s greatest challenge, but taking these steps, and keeping in touch with your insurance broker to make sure you’re covered financially in case of disaster will at least make this season a little bit less stressful.