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 insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Apr 13, 2022

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Car accidents will almost always affect your car insurance premiums or your rating classification
  • Surcharge may be even more severe when there is both injury and damage
  • A car accident does not need to be chargeable just to affect your quotes

Only after you learn how policies are underwritten and what goes into rate determination will you be able to grasp why you pay what you pay for coverage.

There is a long list of different rating factors that can dictate when your rates will go up or down, driving record and accident history are generally the most important.

It is possible for an accident to have absolutely no effect on your premiums, but in some cases, even not-at-fault accidents can change your risk group and make you ineligible for discounts.

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Why Past Car Accidents Matter


The primary way that companies are able to determine how much to charge you the appropriate rate is to consider your past and use it to assign you to a risk class.

By using your actions in the past, the company will fill in the puzzle pieces to determine whether or not you are deserving of low rates and discounts.

The only way to truly assess your past and to predict your future driving habits or behaviors is to review your accident record.

Your Motor Vehicle Report which will include both citations and reported accidents that resulted in damage or injury.

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Can any carrier raise rates for accident history?

Some drivers assume that switching carriers after a collision claim has been paid is the best way to avoid a rate hike.

While it is possible for records to be missed when a claim is new, all carriers use a universal system called the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE).

The CLUE database ensures that all claims are recorded and can be seen by each carrier licensed to do business in the US.

It keeps drivers honest and it helps companies assess risk in the most effective way possible.

The following can have an effect on your rates:

  • At-fault accidents
  • Multiple non-fault accidents
  • Multiple comprehensive claims
  • Minor or serious violations that turn into convictions

It can be surprising to learn that companies that did not pay for any claims for damage are able to charge you for previous accidents.

What consumers must understand is that charge-ability is not based how much was paid out, but instead by the fact that there was an at-fault damage claim that exceeded the state threshold.

This is why switching your carriers will not help you avoid higher rates after a fault determination has been declared.

How will your accident history affect your quote?


How your accident history will affect your car insurance quotes will depend entirely on fault and the quantity.

Accidents have an effect in one of two ways:

  • The accident will either raise rates because it is classified as an at-fault claim and it is still within the chargeable time frame
  • The accident will put you in a higher risk class.

It is possible that being in a higher risk class can prevent you from getting discounts that can save you hundreds every year.

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How long can policies be surcharged for at-fault accidents?

How long a company can charge for an at-fault accident depends upon the state that you live in.

Virtually all states allow carriers to charge a policyholder a surcharged rate for an at-fault accident for a period of 36 months from the date of the claim.

If a policyholder has an accident and switches carriers 2 years later, the new carrier will only be able to surcharge for the remaining year as long as the 36 months has not passed on that date.

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How can accidents change my risk class?


If you have an expansive history with multiple non-fault accidents or a combination of at-fault and non-fault losses, there is a good chance you will not qualified for assignment to a preferred risk class.

There are three different risk classes that you can be assigned to:

  • Preferred customers pay the best rates because they are least likely to file claims
  • Standard risks may have one or two accidents or violations, but no accidents resulting in injuries
  • High-risk applicants pay the highest rates and may have trouble qualifying for coverage with some of the leading standard-risk insurers

How will an accident affect policies already in force?

When you have an accident with your current insurer, the accident cannot be taken into consideration to affect your rates until your policy comes up for renewal.

Rates are locked into a risk class for the entire term unless you add a new car, new coverage or a new driver.

If you are found to be 51 percent or more at-fault for a loss, the accident will be charged to the rates on the next renewal invoice. You will receive this invoice about 45 days before the policy term ends.

Not only can the charge for the accident affect your rates, if you have an accident, it is possible that you can lose money-saving good driver discounts.

Understanding the Marketplace

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All companies will charge for accidents, but not all companies charge the same rates for risky drivers.

There are insurers that would prefer to do business with preferred risk drivers and other insurers who like the fact that they can charge higher premiums for high-risk drivers.

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