How long does an accident stay on your record?

If you're wondering how long an accident stays on your record, you should know that accidents will generally show on your insurance report for three to five years. Drivers with good records may qualify for accident forgiveness plans.

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Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently a professional writer.

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Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business. Brad is licensed in all P&C lines.

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Reviewed by Brad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Brad Larsen

UPDATED: Apr 15, 2022

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Things to Know

  • You can add accident forgiveness coverage in some states
  • Accidents that were not your fault do show on your records
  • Your driving report information can be found in many different records

Accidents that affect your insurance rates generally remain on your driving record for three to five years. Insurance companies typically refer to these current years to rate your driving risk.

An accident that wasn’t your fault will show on your records but may not automatically increase your rates. If you have an otherwise clean driving record, an accident deemed your fault could fall under an accident forgiveness plan.

All states record and report accidents and driving records differently, and all share the information with insurers and other states. 

Accidents you were at-fault for may show on your record longer, and these include:

  • An accident that caused a fatality
  • A driver who is under 25 years old
  • Any accident involving impaired driving

Insurance companies perform a ‘look back’ over your driving record and use your most current driving information to set your insurance rates. 

How long do accidents stay on your record?

Not all records are equal when determining how long information stays on your record. Each state has its system for separating and reporting driving records. Some states use only DMV reports and criminal reports, while other states maintain four reports, like New York State. 

You will find your records in New York State with one or all of these reports:

  • Standard driving record
  • Lifetime driving record
  • Criminal driving history

While accidents won’t show on your DMV report in New York, any points from tickets will. These points will clear after 18 months. 

Your standard driving record in New York will show your accidents for three years, plus any months in the year of your accident. Your lifetime driving record and criminal report may have the information forever. 

As seen in the New York system, records are held in many places for different lengths of time. In California, records for DWI are held for ten years, violations that add two or more points are reported for seven years, and accidents are reported for three years. 

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How long does an accident stay on insurance?

How long an accident stays on all of your records really depends on the type of accident and any criminal charges tied to that accident. If you had an accident 15 years ago, it is unlikely to raise your rates now. 

Alternatively, your rates may be higher if you had a criminal charge tied to an accident four years ago and have continued to add driving tickets to your record. 

Insurance companies have their systems for rating drivers. This system is similar to the DMV Point system used by many states.

Insurance companies keep their records and use sharing systems to find information from state sources and other insurers. The companies that maintain this information about you are often referred to as underwriters. 

These underwriters work with both state governments and insurance companies:

  • LexisNexis C.L.U.E.
  • Verisk Analytics Inc.
  • Transunion Drivers History

While many state records hold information from your entire driving history, the insurance company only asks for your relevant driving record or the standard three to five-year driving record.

Insurance companies will determine the severity of your accident or collision by how much damage was done and if anyone was injured. Most insurance companies use minor crashes and major crashes to define crash severity.

These types of car accidents are generally considered minor car accidents:

  • Fender benders 
  • Rear-end accidents without injuries
  • Single-vehicle accidents without injuries

These types of accidents are significant and may be a red flag on your record for longer:

  • Hit-and-run accidents
  • Road construction accidents
  • Any Car accident with felony criminal charges 

Insurance companies want to know your current accident risk, so they only ‘look back’ a few years. However, they can access as much of your record as is available. If you have had many tickets or accidents, they could expand their record search. 

How long does an at-fault accident stay on insurance records?

As with other accident and driving records, an accident you were at fault for will be current in your insurance records for three to five years. At-fault accidents are most important on your insurance record information. 

This record will show all of the details of the accident. Most state records only report an accident that happened, not who caused it.

Even if you were ticketed for being at fault due to driving negligence, you may be able to plead down your charges. The lesser charges will appear in your official state records, and your insurance company will have all of the car accident details. 

How do accident forgiveness plans work?

Many states limit the types of rewards car insurance companies can offer. Accident forgiveness automatically included in your policy can be considered a reward. Because of this, insurance companies try to create programs that can work for drivers in most states. 

Accident forgiveness programs are offered only in states that allow perks or rewards.

Insurance CompanyYears Accident Free Company Program
Name
Included
in Policy
Available as an Upgrade
GEICO 5 or more years Accident ForgivenessYes, as a good driver perk with limited coverage on accidents.Yes, with expanded benefits.
State Farm3 or more yearsGood Driver Discount or
Steer Clear
Depends on state
rules and policy.
Expanded savings for longtime policy holders.
Liberty Mutual 5 yearsAccident ForgivenessVaries by policy.May be included
in policy upgrade.
Progressive5 YearsAccident Forgiveness

Yes, under their
Small Accident Forgiveness plan.

Yes, as a part of
their Loyalty Reward Program.
Farmers3 YearsFarmers Policy PerksVaries by each state or policy. Depends on state
and policy.
Travelers3 YearsResponsible Driver PlanMay be included with policy for minor accidents.Yes, in the Premier Responsible Driver Plan.
AARP Car Insurance from The Hartford5 YearsAccident ForgivenessVaries by policy.Can be included as
part of additional
coverages.
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Any at-fault accident you had in the last three to five years will exclude you from the program. So, it isn’t possible to switch insurance companies to get an accident forgiveness program.

Many insurance companies will exclude you from accident-free programs if you have traffic tickets or points on your license. 

Accident forgiveness plans can also consider the driving records of all drivers in your household or on your policy. This may include drivers who live with you but are not on your car insurance.

Some insurance companies have an initial charge for accident forgiveness but will add it for free as a policy reward if you don’t have an accident in the three to five-year span. 

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When do accidents fall off your insurance?

Once you have had three to five years without an accident your driving record will be clear again. 

The term ‘fall off’ is used, much like points on your license, because you won’t usually be notified of the change. It won’t be taken off in a literal way. Instead, it won’t show in your current three to five-year driving record. 

There are many misconceptions about the seven-year rule. Many people believe that your record is automatically cleared after seven years, and this is not true. In fact, many states actively report driving offenses or accidents that were deemed criminal for ten or more years. 

Are there options to clear my record? 

The first step to clearing your record is to know exactly what others are seeing by requesting your reports. All states allow you to request your reports, most charging a small fee. In most cases, you will need to request a report from each group or a separate government agency.

Whatever steps you take may clear or reduce any criminal charges from an accident for which you were found at fault. You will still need to wait out your three to five-year period on your insurance report.

When an accident occurs, the at-fault driver may be cited for one or more driving offenses. Any accident that caused a death will likely appear on your record for longer regardless of charges or tickets. 

These driving offenses stay on most records for five to 13 years:

  • DWI/DUI and speeding over 25 MPH
  • Speeding over 25 MPH while texting 
  • Speeding over 40 MPH causing an accident

Some states also offer programs to clear criminal records. One such program is Missouri’s expungement law. This program works best for you if you have very few tickets or charges. Generally, these programs are decided on a case-by-case basis. 

Most states offer DMV point reduction classes. These can help reduce your insurance cost and may reduce your total points. These classes won’t change your record, though, and many do include state-mandated insurance rate reductions. 

If you can clear your record with proactive steps, it will be up to you to follow up on all other records. Be sure to check your city DMV and local police reports too. In some states, city fines and tickets are included separately from your state record. 

These easy proactive steps may help you find quick, affordable coverage:

  • Compare quotes often
  • Look for bundle insurance policies
  • Make sure you are getting any discounts that apply to you

Having an accident is always a stressful situation. Knowing lower-cost insurance options can help reduce your anxiety following a crash.

A good rule of thumb is to compare insurance offers every couple of months to ensure you have the best rates. You also want to drive with extra care until your insurance records clear.

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