How Long Does an At-Fault Accident Stay on Your Record?

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Contributor, Benzinga
November 3, 2023

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An at-fault accident will appear on your driving record even in a no-fault state. The duration an accident appears on your record varies from state to state and the type of accident. Keep reading to learn more about how long an at-fault accident stays on your driving record and how it affects your car insurance rates. 

How Long Does an At-Fault Accident Stay on Your Record?

When you are involved in a car accident, whether you are at fault or not, someone can report it to your state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The accident is then recorded on your driving record. How long an accident remains on your record depends on where you reside and the accident's severity.

For example, in California, an at-fault accident will remain on your record for three years from the date of the accident, whereas in Oregon, an at-fault accident remains on your record for five years or more.

How Do At-Fault Accidents Impact Insurance Rates?

After an at-fault accident, your car insurance premiums will likely increase since insurers will view you as a higher-risk driver who is more likely to file claims.

Your premium increase after an accident will rely on several factors, including the company you insure with, the accident's severity, the number of claims you've made in the past, where you live and your age and gender in some areas. For example, since insurers typically perceive drivers under 25 as a hazardous group to insure, premium rates for this demographic may be the highest following an accident.

Your premiums may go up after any accident, but more serious incidents involving injuries or extensive property damage or accidents in which alcohol was a factor may cause your insurance company to consider non-renewing your auto policy.

Get in touch with the insurance company's customer service department if you've been told your policy won't be renewed and you'd like further information about why or if you think the given reason is unfair. If you're not satisfied with the response, you can contact your state's department of insurance.

It's important to remember that getting dropped by one insurance provider doesn't automatically mean that you can't buy another car insurance policy from another provider.

How Much Will My Insurance Premium Increase?

After an accident, your auto insurance premiums are likely to rise, although how much they increase depends on factors like the nature and severity of the collision, the location of the accident and the state where you reside. According to carinsurance.com, insurance companies typically increase premiums for at-fault motorists by about 31%.

According to Insure.com data, your rates can increase about 26% to 32% after an accident, roughly around $360 to $460 more yearly.

What Are Accident Forgiveness Programs?

After an accident, your car insurance rates may stay high for three to five years. You can deal with a rate hike after a car accident. If you buy the optional accident forgiveness coverage, you may be able to avoid a rate increase.

Accident forgiveness is a feature of a vehicle insurance policy that shields your driving record from being impacted by the insurance company's rating system for an at-fault accident and keeps your insurance premium from increasing.

However, it is essential to note that the insurance company may not waive the policyholder's premiums for every at fault accident they're involved in. Typically, this only applies to your first accident for which you were responsible and only if you have an otherwise clean driving history. 

Accident forgiveness programs have different features and rules from company to company. Know the details of your car insurance company's accident forgiveness policy. You may not be eligible if you've had multiple accidents in the past few years. Also, an accumulation of moving infractions, such as traffic fines for speeding, may disqualify you.

What Other Ways Can I Save on Car Insurance?

You may be able to find additional vehicle insurance savings even if you don't meet the criteria for accident forgiveness. For example, many insurance companies offer a program worth investigating called a vanishing deductible where your insurance deductible gradually decreases over time. Good student discount policies and pay-as-you-go insurance policies are two additional strategies to save money on your auto coverage.

Here are some of the most common car insurance discounts you may qualify for.

  • Bundling: If you buy many insurance policies (auto, house, renters, etc.) from the same insurer, you may qualify for a multipolicy or bundling discount. Two or more vehicles insured with the same company may reduce your premium. Bundling policies is a common vehicle insurance reduction.
  • Autopay discount: Many auto insurance companies provide savings for monthly auto deposits. Debit or credit cards or bank account exchange-traded funds (ETFs) can set up automatic payments.
  • Loyalty discount: Customers with multiple policy renewals often receive discounts. Contact your auto insurance provider before renewing to find out if you're eligible for a loyalty discount. 
  • Paid-in-full discount: Many auto insurance companies provide reductions to consumers who prepay their annual premiums. 
  • Paperless discount: Many companies are urging their customers to go paperless to reduce their environmental impact or save money on printing and mailing goods, and going paperless means receiving bills and policy information via email, the company's website or a mobile app.
  • Usage-based discounts: Usage-based insurance (UBI) lets insurers track your speed, braking and driving distance. Participating in an initiative that encourages safer, smarter driving reduces your risk of an accident. UBI drivers receive discounts from various companies.
  • Defensive driver discounts: Defensive driving courses enhance driving skills and may lower auto insurance rates. Some insurance companies provide discounts for defensive driving courses. The corporation may provide these discounts to all customers or only to elderly or young individuals.
  • Good driver discounts: Insurers may consider you a reduced risk if you have no collisions, speeding fines or other driving offenses. Some insurance providers offer a good driver discount in addition to a price decrease.
  • Low-mileage discount: Less driving can benefit you and your insurer. Many insurance companies offer discounts to responsible drivers who travel fewer miles. If you drive less than 14,200 miles yearly (the national average), ask your insurance company about low-mileage discounts.
  • Good student discount: Good students (and their parents) can lower driver license renewal rates by maintaining B averages or better. Teen and young adult drivers pay extra. Most auto insurance companies provide discounts to full-time students with good grades. 
  • Occupational discounts: Several top auto insurers offer discounts to various occupation categories. Teachers and first responders sometimes receive advantages, but this varies.
  • Group discounts: Depending on the insurer, different groups may qualify for this reduction. Some insurance firms offer discounts to AAA and AARP members. Some firms provide alumni discounts.
  • Military discounts: Military drivers may receive auto insurance reductions. Many insurance firms offer discounts to active-duty troops and veterans as a thank-you. 
  • Safety-feature discounts: Safety measures on cars may reduce insurance companies' risk. Ask your insurance carrier for savings on airbags and anti-lock brakes.
  • Anti-theft discounts: Anti-theft equipment lowers insurance costs like safety measures. Some insurance companies offer discounts for vehicles with anti-theft systems.
  • New-car discounts: Some insurance providers offer new car discounts. Your insurer may give you a discount if you drive a car less than three years old.

Compare Auto Insurance Providers

You can shop for car insurance and compare discounts from different companies to keep your rates low. You can begin with the list below to help you get started on your search for affordable car insurance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

Do insurance companies report accidents to the DMV?

A

Usually, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does not receive information about at-fault accidents from your auto insurer. Nevertheless, whether or not your insurance company gets involved, the police will likely submit a report to the DMV in the state where the incident occurred.

Q

Can I get car insurance with an accident on my record?

A

Accidents on your driving record won’t prevent you from buying car insurance. An insurance provider considers how much was paid, how often you made claims and if you were at fault when deciding whether to insure you. Certain car insurance companies specialize in high-risk auto insurance.

Q

Will my insurance premiums increase even if I'm not at fault in a car accident?

A

In most cases, your insurance premiums may still increase even if you are not at fault in a car accident. This is because insurance companies consider a variety of factors when determining premiums, and one factor is your overall risk profile. Being involved in a car accident, regardless of fault, can be seen as an increased risk by the insurer. However, the extent to which your premiums increase will vary depending on your insurance carrier and the specific details of the accident. It is always recommended to contact your insurance company to discuss the situation and any potential impact on your premiums.

About Janet Hunt, Insurance Agent

Janet has been working in, and writing about, the insurance industry for over 20 years.