Key Highlights
  • If an accident occurred less than five years ago it appears on your motor vehicle record.
  • An insurance company usually look back at your driving record for three years. If you've been involved in an at fault accident you may end up with a surcharge.
  • Even if you are not at fault, the California DMV require you to file an SR-1 report within 10 days if you were in a major car accident where someone was injured or killed or property damage exceeded $1,000.
  • The state of California assigns points for various offenses and the serious offenses stay on your record for up to 10 years. These infractions may include driving over 100 MPH, reckless driving, evading law enforcement, hit-and-run collisions and more.
  • Car Insurance companies keep a database of claims related to accidents called CLUE, which insurance companies can access to find out what claims you have had in the past.

How long does an at-fault accident stay on your record in California?

Expect your car insurance company to look back at your driving record for three years to see if you've been involved in an accident. If so, you may end up with a surcharge (extra charge added to your insurance premium) for any incidents that were your fault.

But you should be aware that increasing insurance premiums of drivers in no-fault accidents is banned in California as well as in Oklahoma.

Learn more about How Much is Car Insurance in California?

How are car accidents reported in California?

California police report every car accident to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. However, if the reporting police clearly indicate that the other party was at fault, or there were no serious injuries and damage was less than $1,000, the accident may not show up on your driving record. That’s because California is a fault state.

A fault state means that if you’re driving and someone hits you, you may not be responsible for property damage, medical bills or paying for a ticket if you can prove the other driver was at fault for the accident.

However, some states figure in a percentage of how much at fault you are. That’s because not all accidents are the fault of only one driver.

Even if you are not at fault, the California DMV does require you to file what’s called an SR-1 report within 10 days if you were in a major car accident where someone was injured or killed or property damage exceeded $1,000.

This not only records the accident, but it can also protect you against uninsured drivers. That’s because all drivers involved in an accident must file an SR-1 report, so if a driver doesn’t have insurance, it will show up on their DMV and police record and your insurance may have to foot the bill.

Which states are no fault and what does it mean?

The points system

You should also be aware of the point system. The state of California assigns points for various offenses.

For example, if you pass on a double line, conduct an illegal U-turn, speed, or fail to stop for a school bus, you will usually be assigned one point. These points remain on your record for three to five years.

However, some more serious offenses stay on your record for up to 10 years and will result in two points added to your record. These infractions may include driving over 100 MPH, reckless driving, evading law enforcement, hit-and-run collisions and more.

Do all accidents show up on your driving record?

Auto insurance companies typically check a person's motor vehicle or driving record when they apply for a policy, renew a policy or make changes to their current auto insurance policy.

If an accident that occurred less than five years ago appears on your motor vehicle record (MVR) or you have accumulated several points, it may affect your liability insurance rates.

Insurance companies keep a database of claims related to accidents called the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE), which insurance companies can access to find out what claims you have had in the past.

So, if you're at fault and others involved in the accident file a claim against your policy, 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.