Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Auto accidents can be detrimental to the premium you pay for auto insurance
  • The length of time accidents remain your driving record varies by state
  • Who is at fault for an auto insurance accident can play a role in the accident’s impact on your record and premium

You could be the best driver in the world, but the reality is that you are always at risk of an auto accident.

That is the very reason why we buy auto insurance in the first place, to help to cover ourselves and to ensure that we are made whole again as a result of an unfortunate event such as an auto accident taking place.

The thing that so many people do not know though is the long-term impact that an auto accident can actually have in your insurance policy.

Insurance policies and the premiums that are calculated for you to pay for the right to have the policy are based largely on the location that you live, the car that you drive, driving habits, as well as your record.

The driving record is a factor though that can really be a benefit or be largely detrimental to your insurance policy as a whole.

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The Accident Doesn’t Disappear After Settlement

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What so many people think is that when they have an auto insurance accident, they file a claim and settle the claim over time and that is that.

The truth though is that even when that insurance claim is settled, the auto accident is going to stick with you for a very long time.

All that you as a driver probably wants to do is to forget that the auto insurance accident ever took place, but your insurance company, on the other hand, is not going to forget.

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The Impact on a Premium

The biggest area where you are going to feel the impact of an auto insurance accident is the premium that you pay for your auto insurance policy.

When you go through an accident, your insurance company is going to rate it based on the severity of that accident.

This is largely going to be driven by the cost to the insurance company in order to make you whole again or indemnify you.

When you have a minor accident or a major one, the premium is going to increase based on the points that you have against you on the driving record.

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Timing Depends on Where You Live

The length of time that an auto insurance accident can stay on your policy and impact your premium in a negative way is largely dependent on the state that you live in.

Your motor vehicle record is linked to you at the state level, meaning that your record if you drive in Massachusetts, for example, is with that state.

In California, for example, the typical length of time for an auto accident to stay on a driving record is three years. In Massachusetts though, the length of time for a major accident can be five years.

What you want to do is to check the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website so that you can get a better idea as to the regulations that are in place in your particular state.

Who is at fault in the accident?

The way in which fault comes into play when you are talking about auto accidents depends on the state and the company that you have your insurance policy with.

Certain insurance companies will have language in your policy that states that if you have no responsibility for the accident, your premium will not be affected.

This is not the case for all insurance policies though, which is why you want to pay attention to the language specific to your policy.

As a general rule of thumb, an accident will impact your insurance policy for three to five years.

In the vast majority of states, after the three to a five-year mark, that accident is going to drop off and your premium will be reduced. Having multiple accidents within that three to a five-year window will only increase premium further.

You could be the safest driver in the world, but auto accidents always present a risk. That is why we all purchase auto insurance, to indemnify us should an unfortunate event ever occur.

Knowing what impact an accident has on that policy is also good knowledge to have. Enter your zip code below to find car insurance that meets your needs!