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ask joanne

I got a small-fine traffic ticket, only $30 without any demerit points. At first, I thought I would just pay, but I am afraid it will impact my insurance, since the record will show I have a conviction on a traffic ticket. Do you think I should fight it the same way as tickets with a larger fine? – Dawn in Toronto

When deciding whether to invest your time and resources in fighting a traffic ticket, consider whether you feel innocent of the offence – and what the consequence of not fighting the ticket will be.

A small-fine ticket and no associated demerit points doesn't mean your driving record – also known as an abstract – will remain unblemished. Most violations, with the exception of parking tickets, will appear on your record. Insurance companies reference this to determine what kind of driver you are, assess your risk of future claims and, along with other factors, to calculate your premium.

"Your policy and your driving record in the last three years will determine if a ticket is going to impact your insurance. Some insurance companies allow up to two or three convictions before they cause an increase, but it really depends upon your policy," says Tabitha Taylor, a paralegal assistant with Toronto's Traffic Ticket Solutions firm.

"When it comes to tickets, most insurance companies do not look at the demerit points. They evaluate based on the severity of the ticket and the number of tickets that the person has on their record," says Anne Marie Thomas, a manager with

Contact your insurance provider to find out if, and how, a traffic violation will affect your premium.

"We always recommend doing that anonymously. Try to see if you can get a quote from your insurance company for the kind of increase they would give for that type of ticket when you've been with them for X number of years. Sometimes calling and saying, 'You know I got a ticket, if I pay the ticket and don't fight it, will it affect me?' will flag your file, and then they'll give you a check at renewal time to make sure you haven't got any convictions," says Taylor.

If you choose to hire a professional to fight a ticket, what can you expect?

"For a zero-point ticket in Toronto, it's about $200 plus HST. That would cover everything, including a trial if one needs to be run," says Taylor. "We always look to make sure the cop has followed protocol, and that there are no inconsistencies in the statements. That's the kind of service you should be getting from a company to see if there is a way to eliminate the ticket. If not, we always try for a lesser fine, or our chances at winning a trial."

Check with your insurance broker to find out what its rules are for the type of ticket you've received. Then, use this information to decide whether to take up the fight.

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