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Finding affordable car insurance can seem impossible. After all, everything from your age to the type of vehicle you drive can cause rates to skyrocket. But can car insurance companies find out about previous accidents? We’ve researched the subject to give you the most accurate answer.
Car insurance companies can definitely find out about previous accidents on your record. The amount of information they receive is limited, though. Whether your insurance company finds out about past accidents also depends on other factors such as:
- How long ago the accident was
- Whether there was a report filed with DMV
- Whether the police were involved at the scene (or were contacted afterward)
- Who was at fault
- How long you’ve been with your insurer
- How consistent your company is with checking for updates
- Whether a DUI or DWI is a factor
There’s no simple answer for whether your insurance agent will know about your last collision. However, we can explain everything you need to know about what your insurance company knows about your driving record and claims history.
How Long Will an Accident Affect My Insurance?
When you file a claim with your car insurance, it can affect your rates. Even if you do not file a claim (more on that later), your DMV record can reflect moving violations, accidents, and more. But the cause and details of the collision dictate how long the activity stays on your driving record.
Specifics vary based on the state and the violation—say, a speeding ticket versus a DUI or DWI. But most information remains on your driving record for three to five years.
Once an event drops from your DMV record after the specified timeframe, your car insurance company won’t see it when they look at your driving history. Plus, different states limit how insurance companies can use those details. For example, in some states, an accident you had five years ago won’t affect your premium at all.
When you sign up for insurance—or request a quote—most companies will inquire about your driving record. This can give you an idea of how far into your driving past an insurer plans to look.
Can a No-Fault Accident Affect My Insurance?
If you’ve caused an accident, you likely understand why your insurer would raise your rates. After all, you’re a higher risk to them if you’ve made mistakes while driving in the past. But what about an accident in which you aren’t at fault?
Some states have no-fault insurance, which means that each party’s insurance takes care of its own driver. That means your rates can go up following an accident regardless of who caused it because your insurance company had to pay out anyway.
In other states, insurers are prohibited from raising your rates if you weren’t at fault. With varying determinations of fault, though, it’s still possible your premiums will increase even if you’re, say, 20 percent to blame for a collision.
Do I Have to Tell My New Insurance Company About an Accident?
In a scenario where you’ve just purchased your policy with a new company, it can feel intimidating to file a claim right out of the gate. But your contract might stipulate that you have to notify the insurer. In some cases, you must report a collision regardless of the cause or fault status.
When you obtain a policy, you sign a contract agreeing to the insurer’s terms. Failing to report an accident to them could mean they cancel your policy or cause your premiums to soar.
On the other hand, if you have an older accident on your record, odds are your agent is already aware of it. Or, it may be old enough that it won’t come up on the reports your new company references.
Which Events Don’t Require Reporting?
In other cases, a minor incident that doesn’t involve another vehicle may not require reporting.
Let’s say you accidentally back into a light post. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage—which would repair your vehicle once you pay the deductible—there’s no reason to tell the company about your incident.
They won’t fix the damage unless you have the right coverage, and no one else was affected in the event. Even if you do have comprehensive coverage, you might not want to use your policy if the deductible is high.
Another scenario that often doesn’t require reporting is when you hit an animal. A collision with a deer, for example, isn’t truly a collision. Insurance companies cover those incidents under comprehensive coverage. You only need to follow their guidelines for reporting if you want to have repairs covered by your policy (and deductible).
Does DMV Tell My Insurance When I Have an Accident?
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, you must notify them of particular types of accidents. In California, if the collision involved over $1,000 in property damage or someone was injured or killed, you have ten days to tell DMV about the incident. State requirements vary, so it’s best to check your state’s DMV advice on the matter.
When reporting is required, both drivers involved have a responsibility to inform DMV, or their insurance agent or a lawyer can do it for them. Either way, if someone calls the police, the reporting could be done for you. If law enforcement finds that you were speeding or otherwise violated the law, they’ll notify DMV, and your driving record will be affected.
However, unless you’re applying for a new policy, your insurance company probably won’t find out about the accident—at least not right away. It’s relatively uncommon for insurance companies to re-check your driving record after they issue you a policy.
DMV doesn’t automatically send accident details to your insurance company, either. Yes, your insurer could theoretically pull your driving records anytime. But in most cases, they won’t.
How Can I See My Car Insurance History?
If you’ve changed insurance companies and can’t contact yours for a comprehensive insurance history, there are other ways to get a list of your past claims. Insurance history reports are available from a handful of organizations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), and they’re free to obtain.
First, you can access a free C.L.U.E. report every 12 months. C.L.U.E. stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, and it’s a fancy name for a database that insurance companies feed their claims information into. The report documents all claims data from the past seven years. You can get a C.L.U.E. report from LexisNexis, the company that manages the database.
A second option is an A-PLUS report, also available for free once per year. A-PLUS is the Automated Property Loss Underwriting System, and it documents insurance claims for the past five years. You can contact Verisk to obtain the A-PLUS report.
The third option, the Insurance Information Exchange report, is only available if adverse action has been taken against you because of the contents. For example, if you are denied insurance coverage because of the Consumer Report, you can request a copy from Verisk.
Insurance companies can request these reports, too, so checking yours can shed light on whether past claims will affect your current premiums. You can also check for accuracy and dispute problems since having incorrect information could negatively impact your coverage options.
How Can I Check My Driving Record?
Plenty of online services allow you to check your driving record. However, it’s usually easier and cheaper to visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website and request a copy. In some cases, your insurance company may have a copy on file that you can access.
Can My Insurance Company See My Driving Record?
In most states, anyone who requests to view your DMV record—a public record—can receive access. Only certain aspects are available, though, and no one can view your entire Motor Vehicle Report. What they can see are any tickets you’ve received, convictions on your driving record, and accident histories.
State laws limit how in-depth the information is, but typically, three to five years is as far back as insurers can go. The most notable exception to the rule is with drunk driving convictions. Those remain on drivers’ records for anywhere from ten to 75 years, depending on the state.
Each state has its a points system for driving records, but insurers use their own calculations to determine risk and coverage costs. That means even if one company denies you or offers high rates, it doesn’t mean another insurer won’t agree to help you.
Obtaining insurance coverage is a must to stay safe (and legal) on the road, so don’t let your driving or accident record keep you from pursuing a policy.