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Notes From Our Legal Advisory

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Fines: If you are served with a ticket by a police officer, it will usually have an option for paying a fine. The ticket will also have an extra surcharge, so if you are going to plead guilty you must pay the total amount of the fine and surcharge. It is also highly recommended that you seek legal advice before pleading guilty.

Trial Dates: If you receive a yellow offence notice (the ticket), you must request a trial date no more than 15 days after the police officer hands it to you.

Demerit Points: You may be assessed demerit points depending on the type of traffic infraction. For example you will accumulate three demerit points if you fail to stop for a stop sign or a red light. For more serious offences you could receive six demerit points for careless driving or seven points for failing to remain at the scene of an accident. If you are a novice driver (G1 or G2) your licence will be suspended for 60 days once you reach nine or more points. Fully licensed (G) drivers are suspended for 30 days when they accumulate 15 or more points.

Serious driving offences: Careless driving, driving under suspension, drive without insurance and failing to remain at the scene of an accident are some of the many charges that insurance companies view as serious offences. Criminal charges (such as impaired driving) are the most serious of all. In most cases convictions for serious offences will mean that the highest insurance premiums will be charged, and very likely the owner will be placed with the Facility Association (the insurer of high-risk drivers).

Infractions while out of the province or in the U.S.: New York and Michigan are currently the only U.S. states that have an agreement with Ontario for the assessment of demerit points and convictions. All the provinces have an agreement with Ontario for convictions and demerit points. If you receive a driving infraction in New York, Michigan or any Canadian province, the insurance companies will have access to your driving record.

Auto Insurance Coverage: Is your son, daughter or other family member covered to drive the family car? Unless any specific person is excluded in writing from the insurance policy, all individuals who are legally licensed to drive your class of vehicle are automatically covered by the owner's policy anywhere in Canada or the U.S. Please note that auto insurance policies are not valid in Mexico or anywhere else outside Canada or the U.S. All owners should be aware that when you lend someone your car you are also lending that person your insurance policy. This means that the owner may be equally liable in law for damages or injuries caused by the driver.

Accident Reporting: The Highway Traffic Act requires that all accidents must be reported where there is personal injury or damage to property apparently exceeding $1000. This report must be made forthwith (not the next day or a week later). As soon as someone can reach a telephone, the local police agency must be contacted.

There is one exception: if a police officer directs a motorist to report the accident at a collision reporting centre, then by custom the police will normally give the motorist 24 hours to report. In the case where there is property damage only, and it does not apparently exceed $1000 (total damage to all involved vehicles), there is no requirement to report the accident.

Renting a vehicle: In Canada, all rental cars have liability insurance (usually one million dollars). This type of insurance comes with the car and it will protect the renter for damages and injuries to other persons and their property, but does not insure the car itself. In many U.S. states the liability insurance of some car rental companies is quite low, and you may want to purchase extra liability coverage. Make sure you ask the rental agent about this extended liability insurance protection. As for damages to the car you are renting, it is very important that you either purchase the rental company's collision damage waiver (which is very expensive) or pay an extra premium on your own vehicle's insurance that will cover you for rental cars. Another option is to use a premium credit card that will cover collision damage to rental cars. Most banks and other financial institutions offer these so-called "gold" cards.

Small Claims Court: In small claims proceedings, if you are being sued, you must respond to the plaintiff's claim within 20 days; otherwise a judgment will be entered against you. If you wish to sue someone, a fee must be paid in advance (usually $75), and your statement of claim must be on the official court form (found on-line at the Ministry of the Attorney General's website) and filed with the appropriate court. You should contact your local court, or go on-line for further information.