Insurance companies typically look back three to five years, so if an accident is on your driving record it could affect you for that long. When car insurance companies rate you on an accident, you end up with a surcharge (extra charge added to your premium) for it.
Thus, how long an incident stays on your state driving record matter.
In California, every accident reported to the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) by law enforcement shows on a motorist's driving record -- unless the reporting officer says another person was at fault. So it's possible that if you another driver was found at fault for the accident that it wouldn't show up on your California driving record for you to be rated on by your car insurance company.
However, the DMV also notes that if you, or another party in your accident, has over $750 in damage or if anyone is injured or dies then the accident needs to be recorded on a SR-1 accident report, which the DMV must record and keep on file.
The state of California assigns at-fault accidents one point. The information regarding the incident and the point will be placed on your California driving record when you're at-fault. The accident will remain on your driver record for three years.
Auto insurance companies typically check a person's motor vehicle or driving record when a person applies for a policy, renews a policy or makes changes to their car insurance policy. If your accident is on your motor vehicle record (MVR) at the time that they check your record it can affect your car insurance rates.
While it's generally the DMV that keeps information regarding your accidents, insurance companies also keep a database of claims related to accidents. This comprehensive loss underwriting exchange (C.L.U.E.) can be accessed by insurance companies to find out what previous claims you have had in the past, and rate you on them. So, if you're at-fault and others claim against your policy, even future car insurance companies will know. The same holds true if you are in a single-car accident and make a claim for your own vehicle.
If you have an accident on your record that is affecting your rates, shop around for cheaper car insurance rates. Auto insurance providers surcharges vary for accidents, so by changing insurers you could save hundreds of dollars a year.