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A car accident might only last a few moments, but the financial aftermath can stick with you for years. Even if you’re in a minor accident with no injuries or serious car damage, you could see an increase in your insurance rates. In some states, causing a car accident could impact your rates for up to five years.

If you have a pristine driving record and cause an accident, here’s some bad news: The national average rate increase is 41% for drivers with a clean record who cause an accident, according to Forbes Advisor’s analysis.

But not every car accident will result in a rate increase. And if you do get hit with higher rates, there are ways you may be able to reduce the financial impact.

How Does a Car Accident Affect Insurance?

If you are found at-fault for a car accident, you’re most likely going to see an increase in your car insurance rates at renewal time. That’s because an at-fault accident is considered a “chargeable” accident, which generally means you were more than 50% at fault and the accident caused one of both of these:

  • Damage to someone else’s property, such as another car or a fence
  • Bodily injury or death to someone else

The car liability insurance portion of your policy covers property damage or injury to someone else. When a claim is made against your liability insurance, this could result in a “surcharge,” which is the actual rate increase after a chargeable car accident.

The surcharge will start when you renew your policy (an insurer can’t surcharge you in the middle of a policy period).

The overall severity of the car accident and the resulting cost of an insurance claim can impact your rates. A minor parking lot fender bender typically won’t have the same impact as a major accident. In certain states, your insurer won’t raise your rates if the claim is under a certain dollar amount. For example, if you cause a car accident in Massachusetts, you won’t get a surcharge for claims under $1,000.

Average Car Insurance Rate Increases After an Accident

StateAverage insurance rate increase after an at-fault accident
District of Columbia36.10%
We averaged the rate increase in each state among large insurers for drivers with liability coverage of $100,000 bodily injury per person, $300,000 bodily injury per accident and $100,000 for property damage (100/300/100), and collision and comprehensive insurance. Source: Quadrant Information Services.

Will My Insurance Rates Go Up If I Didn’t Cause the Accident?

Car insurance rates generally go up only when you cause a car accident that results in damage or injuries to others. Here are some examples of non-chargeable car accidents:

  • Your car was struck in hit-and-run accident
  • Your car was legally parked when it was damaged
  • Your car was struck in the rear by another vehicle and you were not convicted of a moving traffic violation in relation to the accident

See more examples of car accidents that won’t make your insurance go up.

If you’re involved in an accident, your car insurance company might require proof that you weren’t to blame Here are some examples of documents you can gather:

  • A police report about the accident
  • A statement from the other driver’s insurance company accepting fault
  • Another driver’s written statement, under penalty of perjury, attesting to fault
  • A legal document showing that you were reimbursed for accident damage

Also, accidents paid by comprehensive insurance generally don’t result in a rate increase. These include collisions with animals and damage caused by falling or flying objects (like gravel or road debris).

Nonetheless, comprehensive claims are recorded in your claims history. Insurers generally consider drivers with a history of claims to be more likely to file future claims, which can translate into higher car insurance premiums.

How Long Will an Accident Affect My Car Insurance Rates?

How long an at-fault accident affects your car insurance rates depends on your insurance company and state, but it’s generally around three to five years. For example, states like New York and Texas allow insurance companies to apply surcharges only for accidents for the past three years, but states like Massachusetts allow surcharges for five years.

Some states and insurers will decrease the cost of the surcharge applied to an insurance policy for each year you drive without an incident (such as another at-fault accident or a moving traffic violation).

How Can I Lower My Car Insurance After an Accident?

If you get hit with a surcharge because of a car accident, here are ways to reduce your car insurance bill:

  • Ask for discounts. It might seem awkward to ask your insurance company about possible price breaks after a car accident, but you may still be able to qualify for discount car insurance. For example, you might shave a few bucks off your bill by going paperless, or you might get a lower rate if you no longer have a daily commute.
  • Put your safe driving to the test. The best way to recover from an at-fault accident is to practice safe driving. If you believe you’re a good driver, you might consider usage-based insurance. These programs track your driving actions and produce a score and tips for improving your driving. If you score well, you could earn a discount.
  • Shop around. If you’re unhappy with your current insurer’s prices and/or service, you might want to compare car insurance quotes. One of the best ways to save money on insurance is by shopping around. While an accident surcharge will follow you to a new car insurance company, they may still be able to beat your old company’s rates.
CompanyAverage rate increase after an at-fault car accident
State Farm25.20%
For each company we calculated the average rate increase nationwide after an accident for drivers with coverage of 100/300/100 and collision and comprehensive insurance. Source: Quadrant Information Services.