If you’ve been in an accident, after checking to make sure everyone is okay, your next concern is likely insurance. Auto insurance exists to provide the necessary coverage for accidents and damage to your vehicle.
When an accident does occur, however, your premiums could be negatively affected for a time. Here’s what you need to know about how long an accident can stay on your record depending on the situation.
How Long Do Accidents Stay on Your Record?
When a driver has an accident, their premiums almost always increase. In the insurer’s eyes, they are now seen as higher risk, and it will cost more to continue insuring them.
When it comes to accidents, the severity of the accident can impact how long it stays on your record. In general, minor accidents will stay on your report for 3 to 5 years. A more severe accident like a hit and run or one involving a DUI could stay on your record for 10 years or more depending on the state in which the accident happened.
Each state has its own specific rules regarding how long accidents can stay on your record. For example, a DUI will stay on your record for five years in Arkansas but 10 years in California.
What Happens to Your Insurance Rates After an Accident?
Your insurance premiums could increase by 28% to 34% when you get into an accident. This is the nationwide average for when you’re at fault for an accident. You may not see this change instantly, but when you try to renew your provider or change companies, they will check your driving history and see the accident.
If it’s your first accident, and it’s not severe, you may be able to ask if your insurance company offers accident forgiveness. Some insurance companies offer accident forgiveness benefits as a courtesy or through a loyalty rewards program. This helps them keep your rate from increasing if you have a smaller claim or a great driving record otherwise. If you’ve had multiple accidents in the past, your insurance company will likely not be willing to offer accident forgiveness.
What to Do If the Accident Is Not Your Fault
Unfortunately, even if an accident is not your fault, your insurance premiums could still increase depending on your state. According to the Consumer Federation of America, State Farm was the least likely major insurance company to raise premiums for a no-fault accident while Progressive was the most likely.
Insurance companies can (and do) raise their rates even if you haven’t been in an accident, depending on other factors. Your age, your state’s requirements, the make and model of your vehicle, and your personal credit score can all affect your rate.
However, it’s best to check to see if your state has laws that prevent insurance companies from increasing premiums due to an accident that’s not your fault. Currently, there are 12 states that have these laws in place: Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah.
How to Deal With the Insurance Company After an Accident
If an accident occurs, it’s important to contact your insurance provider as soon as possible. Give them all the details and ask how you should file a claim. When you file a claim, you’ll need to pay your deductible.
From there, your coverage amount depends on who’s at fault for the accident along with which type of coverage you have. If you have full coverage, your insurance company will cover damage to your vehicle and any associated medical costs along with the other driver’s vehicle expenses if you were at fault.
If you only have liability coverage, your insurance won’t cover your vehicle and medical expenses if you’re at fault but it will cover the other driver. When you have liability insurance and aren’t at fault for the accident, the other driver’s insurance should cover your expenses.
What If I Have Accident Forgiveness?
You can confirm if you have accident forgiveness with your insurance company either before or after an accident occurs. Even if you haven’t been in an accident, it can be helpful to find this out early on and understand how it works for your specific insurance company.
With accident forgiveness, you will still need to pay your deductible if you’re at fault. However, your premiums shouldn’t increase because of the accident when you renew your auto insurance policy. Accident forgiveness comes in handy for companies that wish to keep their customers long-term since it provides an incentive for you to stay with the same company.
Being involved in a car accident can be stressful, painful, and damaging to your finances. On the other hand, accidents don’t stay on your driving record forever. Depending on your state, they could be gone in a few years. This means if your insurance premiums do increase, it won’t be that way forever.
Ultimately, you’ll want to do your best to shop around for the best rates if you are at fault for an accident. This is if the insurance company doesn’t provide accident forgiveness.