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How long does an accident stay on your record

Updated Nov 03, 2022
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When you purchase a car, the auto insurance quotes you get is based on factors like your age, your car’s make and model and your driving record. But if your driving record changes because you are in an accident, even after you purchase your policy, your rates will likely change as well — and not for the better. An accident that results in an insurance claim will likely cause your rates to increase when your policy renews. However, there may be actions you can take to keep rate increases to a minimum.

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How long does an accident stay on your driving record?

Drivers should note that there is a difference between how long an accident stays on your driving record and how long an accident affects your car insurance. The Department of Motor Vehicles within each state processes and maintains driving records for all registered drivers within the United States. Insurance companies have only limited access to this data. Typically, insurers only have access to the previous seven years of these driving records. Companies use this information to help inform rates and usually increase rates for three to five years following an accident. So although accidents will technically always be on your record, they will likely only affect the cost of your insurance for a few years.

How long does an accident stay on your driving record?

The amount of time an accident affects your car insurance is determined by your insurer and sometimes your state. Your insurer has access to a CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report, and when an accident happens, that incident is added to your report. The CLUE report includes a detailed view of your claims history, including if you were deemed at-fault in the incident, any payout amount, if the claim is currently open or closed and more. After reviewing the CLUE report, your insurer will determine your post-accident rate which will likely take effect upon your next policy renewal.

The more accidents and traffic tickets attributed to you, the higher your insurance rates are likely to go. In short, this is because insurance companies may see high-risk drivers as more likely to file claims for accidents and other driving incidents. The average full coverage premium increase following an at-fault accident is 42 percent. Drivers who cause accidents where others are seriously injured, extensive property damage is caused or when the driver is intoxicated may see some of the most extreme rate increases. In some cases, your insurer may deny your policy renewal.

The table below indicates how much more drivers with an at-fault accident on their record pay for car insurance than drivers with clean driving records.

Average annual premium for no incident Average annual premium after an at-fault accident
Average premium $1,771 $2,521
Male $1,778 $2,532
Female $1,764 $2,510

What is accident forgiveness?

Some auto insurance companies offer accident forgiveness programs. Accident forgiveness is a coverage option that means your first at-fault accident will not cause your rate to increase. You may be eligible for this coverage if you have no tickets or at-fault accidents on your driving record for the past three to five years. Generally, you will pay an additional premium for enrolling in an accident forgiveness program.

Every insurer may have different availability and eligibility requirements for accident forgiveness, but it could be worth considering adding this optional coverage to your policy if available. Drivers should note that even if their accident is “forgiven” by their current insurer, that accident may affect the quoted premiums they see with other companies if they shop for car insurance elsewhere.

How to lower your rate following an accident

There may be ways to lower your rate to offset your auto insurance premium increase following an accident. Most car insurance companies offer incentives and discounts that may help policyholders save more on car insurance. To lower your rate after a car accident, you might consider taking the following steps:

  • Look into telematics programs: Ask your insurer if it has a usage-based telematics program that you could join. These programs, such as Allstate’s Drivewise, collect real-time information on your driving habits and may reward good driving behavior with reduced rates.
  • Enroll in a defensive driving course: You may be able to find approved driving courses that could earn you a discount on your auto insurance. Not all companies offer this type of discount, and it’s not available in all states, but your insurance agent could tell you if your carrier offers this discount and what the criteria would be to earn it.
  • Check for other discounts: Different auto insurance companies offer different discounts that may help policyholders save on their premium. Other common discounts that might help you save include a good student discount, bundling discount, safety features discount and paperless discount.
  • Increase your car insurance deductibles: If you have full coverage, increasing one or both of your deductibles could decrease your premium, but keep in mind that higher deductibles typically mean higher out-of-pocket costs in the event of a claim. Most insurance professionals recommend exploring other options for savings before increasing your deductible.

Frequently asked questions

Methodology

Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2022 rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a clean driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:

  • $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $50,000 property damage liability per accident
  • $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
  • $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
  • $500 collision deductible
  • $500 comprehensive deductible

To determine minimum coverage limits, Bankrate used minimum coverages that meet each state’s requirements. Our base profile drivers own a 2020 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.

These are sample rates and should only be used for comparative purposes.

Incident
Rates were calculated by evaluating our base profile with the following incidents applied: clean record (base) and an at-fault accident.

Written by
Mary Van Keuren
Insurance Contributor

Mary Van Keuren has written for insurance domains such as Bankrate, Coverage.com, and The Simple Dollar for the past five years, specializing in home and auto insurance. She has also written extensively for consumer websites including Reviews.com and Slumber Yard. Prior to that, she worked as a writer in academia for several decades.

Edited by Insurance Editor
Reviewed by Director of corporate communications, Insurance Information Institute