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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In a nutshell...

  • Obtaining information on car accidents is perfectly legal for car insurance companies to use even if the company itself does not require you to report every accident
  • If no one was injured and the damage was minor, you are not required to report an accident to your insurance company
  • In most cases, the police will do the reporting to the DMV once you call them to the scene or after the fact to disclose your accident
  • The first accident your insurance company finds out about may increase your premium up to 15 percent, the Credit Union National Association reports, with a second accident possibly causing an increase of 30 percent or more


Even if you don’t report a car accident to your car insurance company they can still find out about it a number of ways.

Obtaining information on car accidents is perfectly legal for car insurance companies to use even if the company itself does not require you to report every accident.

Reporting a car accident to your insurance company can increase your premiums or even cause a cancellation of your policy altogether, depending on your driving history and other factors.

To see what is the best rates for you are, use our free quote tool above today!

How can insurance companies find out about my accident?

Police reports are an open book for car insurance companies, even if you’re not the one who filed a report. If the accident involved another driver, he or she could be the one reporting the accident.

Witnesses may also call to report the accident and, if police are nearby or arrive on the scene, you can be sure a police report will be filed.

The other driver may also report the accident to his or her own insurance company, which, in turn, may contact your insurance company.

Vehicle repair shops often have shared databases that car insurance companies can access and many auto insurance companies subscribe to other shared databases which keep track of claims.

One example noted by the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance is the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange database, or CLUE. The CLUE database keeps track of claims histories for up to seven years.

Despite the mounds of information available, it is still legal not to report every single accident to your car insurance company in most states.

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When is it OK not to report an accident to my car insurance company?

If no one was injured and the damage was minor, you are not required to report an accident to your insurance company.

One way to gauge if the accident is worth reporting is to assess if the amount of damage is more or less than your deductible.

If the total damage is less than your total deductible, you may end up saving more in the long run by not reporting the accident your insurance company and paying for it out of pocket.

If the damage is higher, however, you may want to report the accident so the insurance company can cover the cost of the damage.

Do I have to report an accident to the state DMV?

Even if you don’t mention your accident to your car insurance company, state laws dictate when you must report it to the state’s motor vehicle department.

Once again, fender benders with no injuries are typically not required to be reported while other accidents are illegal not to report.

For example, the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles accident reporting for those that result in injury or death.

Wisconsin drivers must also report accidents to the DMV that caused damages to property owned by one person that totaled $1,000 or more and damages to government property other than government vehicles that totaled $200 or more.

In most cases, the police will do the reporting to the DMV once you call them to the scene or after the fact to disclose your accident.

They will tell you if they cannot the report the accident, in which case you can file a report with the state DMV.

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What happens to my driving record?

Accidents show up on your driving record, even if the accident was not your fault.

Records will indicate where and when the accident happened and how much damage was done, but the records will not reflect your guilt or innocence regarding the cause.

You can usually obtain a copy of your driving record from your state DMV to review the record is accurate.

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Who has access to this information?

Car insurance companies are not the only ones that have access to accident records.

The records are also typically accessible to highway safety agencies and commissions, local government and law enforcement agencies, legislators and driver education instructors.

What happens to my car insurance rates after an accident?

An accident can end up costing you a lot of money in the long run, even if the damage was relatively minor and repairs relatively cheap, according to the Credit Union National Association Inc.

Your premiums can increase, with the amount of the increase dependant on your overall driving record. Any recent traffic tickets may also come into play when assessing your premium.

Car insurance companies may also look at your age, your payment history and credit report, the type of car you drive and where you live.

Of course, the accident may be part of the formula when it comes to reviewing your policy. Although no rate increases are written in stone, most companies use a rating point system to determine your premium.

The first accident your insurance company finds out about may increase your premium up to 15 percent, the Credit Union National Association reports, with a second accident possibly causing an increase of 30 percent or more.

If you end up with three accidents in quick succession, the company may have to think long and hard about renewing your coverage.

Accidents may also threaten discounts received for being a good driver and not having any recent crashes or claims.

How long before an accident is off my record?

If you filed a claim and it was reported to CLUE, that information sticks around for seven years.

Your tickets and accidents have a shorter lifespan, with the exact amount of time they stay on your record depending on your state’s DMV. Most are cleared off within three to five years.

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