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


Question: In California, how long does a car accident stay on your auto insurance record?

Answer: 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 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 liability 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.

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4 Responses to "How long does an accident stay on your record in California?"
  1. Carol

    Our company AAA refuses to take off a 3 year old accident until the next renewal date after the 3 year period ends which can mean we pay the higher rate up to almost 4 years depending on the month it occurred. Isn't this against state law if their policy terms say 3 years?

  2. Name

    Doesn't seem fair sometimes though. I had my first accident after going 24 years without. I backed into a car in a casino parking lot. Didn't do anything to his car that couldn't be wiped off with a rag. No dents, No scratches into the clear coat or paint on either of our cars, and obviously no injuries. Eight days later I got a call from a body shop from 3 hours away saying I caused $1,200 bucks worth of damage. I told him he'd have to talk to Geico my insurance company. Geico ended up paying out $2,400 I got an accident on my record, and of course my rates went up 800 bucks a year. Not fair.

    1. Steve April 19, 2017 at 12:07 AM

      Yes, when a transient jumps on top of your car in the crosswalk while you are waiting for the light, then claims you hit him it's your word against his. This cost my insurance company $15,000 and I get to pay double insurance the rest of my life. Everyone should have cameras on the front and back of their car or moped.

        Reply »  
  3. Visitor

    Nice job!

Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided are for information purposes. They are not intended to substitute informed professional advice. These responses should not be interpreted as a recommendation to buy or sell any insurance product, or to provide financial or legal advice. Please refer to your insurance policy for specific coverage and exclusion information. Please read our Terms of Service.

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