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How long do accidents affect my car insurance?

Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella...

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Reviewed byDaniel Walker
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UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...
  • When you have an accident, your insurer will surcharge your premiums when you’re deemed the negligent driver
  • The amount of the surcharge depends on your current driving record and the age of the drivers in your household
  • Your auto insurance rates won’t change right away. The surcharge will be added on your renewal after the loss
  • Companies are only allowed to surcharge your insurance rates for 36 months and the charge will drop off
  • If the three-year period ends and your policy still has time left, you may want to shop around for better rates

Not only do you have to have insurance, it’s nice to have the protection after you have an accident.

Drivers who are safeguarded by the appropriate amount of auto insurance don’t have to worry about maxing out their credit cards or depleting their savings account to pay for third-party damages or their own car repairs.

Unfortunately, when you use your insurance, it can have a negative affect on your rates.

The number of accidents that drivers in your household have had in the past can be used to determine how much you should pay for your auto insurance. The more accidents you have, the greater the risk to the insurer.

Compare car insurance quotes today to find the best price for the coverage you need.

Fortunately, filing your claim won’t affect your insurance rates forever. Here’s how accident claims surcharges work:

Will an accident affect your future car insurance rates?

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Anything that affects your personal car insurance rates is called a personal rating factor. Insurance companies use a long list of different factors to forecast risk so that they can adequately calculate a policyholder’s rate.

Your accident record is one of the most popular items used to assign drivers to the right risk class.

An accident can have a future effect on your rates but it’s not a guarantee. It depends on the following:

  • fault allocation determination
  • your past claims record
  • the date of the loss

There are also a select few insurance companies that offer accident forgiveness to people who have maintained a clean record in the past.

What is an accident surcharge?

An insurance surcharge is a penalty or extra money that’s added to your insurance premiums after you file an accident claim or after you’re convicted of a moving violation.

Surcharges can only be added when an item on the driver’s claims record or motor vehicle report is classified by the state as surchargeable.

What makes an accident surchargeable?

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A driving infraction is deemed surchargeable by insurers when you’re cited for a moving violation and then you’re convicted of it.

Just like a conviction is a requirement for tickets, there’s a requirement that accidents have to meet for the insurer to have the right to surcharge the driver’s premiums.

For a car accident to meet the definition of surchargeable it has to be labeled as an at-fault loss for the driver. Some drivers that are involved in auto-related accidents share fault.

When there’s any type of shared fault, the driver who is allocated 51 percent of the fault or more will be at-fault. The accident will be surchargeable on their future insurance.

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How much is the average accident surcharge?

If you file a claim after an at-fault accident, you’re going to see your next premium go up. Surcharges differ from company to company. Some states also have limits to how much an insurer can charge after an accident.

Based on a data collected by Quadrant Information services, the average post-claim rate increase is 41 percent of the original premium. Increases depend on:

  • How much total property damage was reported
  • Whether or not anyone was injured in the accident
  • Who was at fault for the loss
  • Whether or not you have prior accidents on your record
  • The state that you live in

Will the surcharge stay the same?

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No matter how much your surcharge is, it’s possible for the penalty to gradually decrease over time. The charge will only go down when your renewal is run if the state compels insurers to gradually lower the surcharge.

The drop might not be as big after your first renewal, but once 18 to 24 months have passed, it will be significantly less.

Can companies charge you more for having a not-at-fault accident?

If you’re allocated less than 51 percent of the fault after a collision, your Claims Loss Underwriting Exchange report will read that you were not at fault.

This is true even when you’re allocated 49 percent fault. In this scenario, the accident isn’t surchargeable according to industry protocol.

Just because a not-at-fault accident doesn’t come with a surcharge attached to it doesn’t mean that having non-fault claims can’t affect your premiums.

You can’t be surcharged for the claim but you could still fall into a higher risk class if you file three or more claims that weren’t your fault. A higher risk class means that you’ll be charged more even without a surcharge.

When will your insurance rates go up?

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You may be relieved to learn that you don’t have to budget to pay higher monthly or annual rates immediately after you file an insurance claim. You will have time to set aside more money because the carrier can’t raise your rate until your policy has renewed.

If the claim still isn’t settled when your policy is set to renew, your new rates won’t be impacted for until the upcoming term ends.

If the claim is settled before the renewal documents are drafted up and sent to you, you will see exactly how much your decision to file a claim will cost you for the year.

How long will your rates be surcharged?

It would be a huge cause for concern if your auto insurance rates went up permanently after an auto accident. Fortunately, insurance companies can’t surcharge you forever for having a minor lapse in judgment.

State officials prohibit carriers from adding surcharges for any longer than three years after an accident.

Can your new insurer surcharge you for prior claims?

If you’re tired of being penalized by your insurer for an accident you had two years ago, you might think that switching to a new carrier is the best answer.

If your intentions are to skip out and find a carrier that won’t add a surcharge to your premiums, think again. If the accident shows on your CLUE report, it’s surchargeable.

Any insurance company that you’re thinking about doing business with is free to surcharge you just like the insurer who paid the claim. If this was prohibited, drivers would switch carriers all the time to avoid paying high-risk insurance rates.

Instead, it’s not which carrier paid the claim that matters, it’s simply the fact that you had a claim and you were negligent.

What if the damage doesn’t exceed a threshold?

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Every state has its own accident reporting property damage threshold. When the damage in an accident doesn’t exceed the threshold, the accident doesn’t have to be reported.

Since it’s not reported, the insurer can’t surcharge your rates even if some money is paid out on your behalf. The thresholds are typically low. In California, the property damage threshold is $1000.

Is it possible to be forgiven for an accident?

Accident forgiveness is a great policy feature that protects some policyholders from paying a rate increase if they get into an accident.

Not only does this feature save drivers money after a rare accident, it helps the company retain business. The accident won’t be forgiven if the driver switches to a new insurer.

Not all accidents are forgiven and not all companies offer the feature.

If your carrier does, it will usually forgive the first accident you have on your otherwise clean record. The feature isn’t allowed in California or North Carolina because state law prohibits it.

Filing an accident claim could cost you.

If the accident resulted in minor damage, it’s best to consider paying for the repairs on your own. It’s when the damage is significant that you’re best off using your insurance.

If you’re not convinced that your surcharge is reasonable, get instant quotes online and see if another carrier will charge you less for better coverage options.

Use our free rate comparison tool below to find the insurance plan that’s right for you.

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