Knowing how long a car accident will stay on your driving record and how much your insurance rates will go up is important, especially if you want to compare quotes, companies and coverage to get lower premiums. While the short answer is that an accident or ticket will stay on your record for 3 years, when accidents fall off your driving history and how much your premiums will increase, if at all, depend on a variety of factors. If you’re lucky, some auto accidents don’t even go on your record at all.
If you’ve just been in a minor wreck or an at-fault accident and you’re curious about how this car insurance claim is going to impact your rates in the coming years, our guide will walk you through the many different scenarios.
How Long Do Accidents Stay on Your Record?
Typically, an at-fault auto accident or traffic violation will remain on your driving record for a period of three to five years, depending on your state and company. Similarly, a number of factors will affect how much your insurance will go up after an accident, such as:
- Your age
- Your state of residence
- The type of damages – personal injury and medical bills vs property damage
- How much the damage will cost your insurer
- Your current insurance company and their specific policies
- How long you’ve had your coverage with your current insurer – customer loyalty can go a long way
- Your long-term driving record – a clean driving history up until now can be a huge advantage
When determining whether or not your insurance premiums will increase – as well as how much more you may be charged – the insurance carrier will also review some other key criteria, such as the number of accidents you have been involved in, and whether or not you were at fault. Major accidents can increase your rates by as much as 50% on average, although the higher cost of your policy really depends on the amount of your claim.
Generally, car accidents that aren’t your fault should not count against you. For example, in California, every accident is reported to the state’s DMV by law enforcement. However, if the reporting officer states that the other driver was at-fault and you are not liable, then the accident won’t show up on your California driving record.
The exception to this rule is that, if the wreck results in over $750 in damages, then a SR-1 accident report must be filed and the DMV will have a record of it. Nevertheless, in either case, if you’re not at fault, your premiums won’t be affected.
Worst case scenario, if you’ve had multiple wrecks in a short period of time, you may be deemed a high risk driver. Unfortunately, risky drivers require high risk auto insurance, which can be expensive.
First Minor Accident or Ticket
If you’re involved in a minor accident or you receive your first speeding ticket, you may not need to worry about your insurance rates going up. This is particularly true if you have not been in a “fender bender” in the past and your driving record is clean.
In fact, for many drivers who go for long periods of time without any type of accident or ticket, the reward from their auto insurer is oftentimes cheap rates, as well as “accident forgiveness” if they are involved in a minor incident in the future. This is why maintaining a safe and clean driving record is so critical to keeping your premiums low and affordable, even after just one incident.
Subsequent Minor Accidents or Tickets
If you’ve been involved in multiple accidents within a short period of time (usually within three years) or have received more than one speeding violation or traffic ticket, then you can expect your car insurance rates to go up. Based on the severity of the accidents, the amount of damage caused, the cost of the claims, your age, gender, insurance provider, and state requirements, your rates may increase substantially.
For instance, a 16 or 18 year old driver who gets into an accident will experience much higher rate increases than a 65 year old who’s had a good driving record for most of his life. Furthermore, if the wreck was a result of reckless driving or speeding and caused by a male, you should expect costs to go up even more.
Being at fault for an auto accident is another factor that could lead your insurance rates to go up. This can also be dependent on how many accidents you’ve had overall. For example, if you have had no other infractions on your record, then you may not be charged a higher amount for your coverage.
In fact, most companies offer “Accident Forgiveness” as a standard part of their policies and allow you to take a defensive driving course for your first ticket in recent years. But if you have had two or more incidents or tickets within the last 3 years, then you will likely see higher premiums during your next renewal.
How Much Does Insurance Go Up After An Accident?
If you know your insurance rates are about to increase after an at-fault accident, then the next logical question is by how much. How much your insurance will go up really depends on your personal profile as a driver. However, studies have shown that the average increase in premiums across the country is about 44%.
If you’re looking for a more specific figure, here’s a graphic that shows how much rates went up by state after drivers submitted a $2,000 or more claim.
When Do Car Insurance Rates Increase After An Accident?
Generally, if your insurance company decides to increase your premium rates due to an accident, the price adjustment will occur when it is time for your policy to renew. Depending on the type of damage and costliness of the accident, as well as whether or not you were at fault, your rate could increase by 5% to 50%. A big part of the impact will come from losing any safe-driving discounts you may have qualified for before the accident.
So, based on the new amount of premium, it could end up costing you quite a bit more just to continue on with the very same coverage that you had before. At this point, it may make sense to shop around and compare quotes online to see if other insurers are willing to offer a cheaper rate to get your business. This makes sense as a negotiating tactic even if you don’t plan on switching carriers.
How Long Will My Car Insurance Rates Stay High?
How long your auto insurance rates will stay high depends on your state of residence, provider, and driving record going forward. Usually, premiums remain more expensive for 3 years, and over that time period, slowly decrease to their original prices. If you maintain a clean driving history and avoid any accidents or claims for the next 3 years, you can expect your rates to readjust. It obviously goes without saying that the cheapest insurance rates will always be reserved for the low-risk drivers who don’t cost the insurance company any money.
Since all insurers differ with regard to how they treat premiums after an accident, it could make sense for you to complete an auto insurance comparison to see what other companies are charging for comparable coverage. Just enter auto coverage with other insurers.
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