« In fact, in an accident causing property damage, it is the owner’s car insurance that will apply first. »
Nearly everyone has a driver’s licence, for which we pay the SAAQ each year. For those who have a car, they also pay the SAAQ for the plates, and they pay for car insurance. What is the SAAQ’s role? Does my car insurance meet my needs? These are the questions that I will be addressing today.
Its role may not be well known, but the SAAQ takes good care of Quebecers. Founded by Lise Payette in 1978, Quebec’s public automobile insurance plan (Régime d’assurance automobile du Québec) is unique. It compensates victims of motor vehicle accidents and determines insurance contributions. The SAAQ also promotes road safety through awareness-raising initiatives aimed at improving road safety, and is responsible for monitoring and controlling road transport by implementing the Highway Safety Code.
The SAAQ will compensate you should you suffer bodily injuries on a public road in Quebec (highway, road, boulevard), regardless of who is at fault. However, it won’t step in if you injure someone on private property (field, trail, private road). Therefore, if you are driving a motorized vehicle (ATV, snowmobile), it is even more essential to have adequate civil liability insurance. The same goes for driving outside of Quebec. You would not want to be stuck paying for injuries occurring as a result of a recreational vehicle accident or a deadly collision in Ontario. No matter who drives your car, the SAAQ will not go after you.
If you lend your car to a friend, they will be able to drive it, provided they have a driver’s licence. But, if this friend is involved in an accident with your car, you will be linked to the accident, because the car belongs to you. In fact, in an accident causing property damage, it is the owner’s car insurance that will apply first. If you don’t have two-way insurance, think twice before lending your car to anyone; if the driver does not have full insurance coverage on their own vehicle (if they happen to have one), you may lose your car and maybe even the friendship.
That being said, each driver has a claim file with the central registry for automobile accidents (Fichier central des sinistres automobiles). This file, which is consulted by all insurers whenever a car insurance policy is activated, includes two things: all automobile claims you have made in the last six years, as well as all accidents in which you were involved, even if you did not file a claim. If you lend your car to someone and it is damaged in an accident, this will be recorded in the central registry. In theory, your insurer should not take this into account, as you were not driving at the time of the accident.
It is your responsibility to ensure that a car is insured before using it. Bear in mind the three things police officers will ask for if they stop you: driver’s licence, registrations, and car insurance (for mandatory civil liability). By requiring that we have insurance, at least for civil liability, the government is reminding us to take preventive measures instead of corrective ones. If the person lending you a car is not able to provide you with those two documents, I strongly advise you to use other means of transportation, as a car accident could cost you your house and your retirement savings. Whether you’re going on a road trip in the United States with a friend or borrowing your mom’s car in Chambly, don’t forget your responsibilities!