Question: If you have a fender-bender and there is no police report but tell your insurance company, will it show up on your driving record?

Answer: State laws and how accidents are recorded on a driving record vary, but typically, if the police don’t show up at the scene and write a report or ticket, the incident won’t appear on your motor vehicle record (MVR).

In general, for an accident to be noted on your driving record, there has to be a police record of it. It might be in the form of a police report that is forwarded to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or a ticket that was written to you for your part in the accident that ended up on your MVR.

Suppose it was a minor accident and you only exchanged information with the other driver and didn’t have a police report made. In that case, it is doubtful that it would make it onto your driving record, but you should check to see if your state requires you to report the accident to the police or file an accident report with the DMV.

Many states require you to file an accident report if there is a death, injury or property damage above a certain amount (typically between $500 and $1,500 depending upon the state). This report is primarily used to check that all drivers in the accident were insured, but, in some states, the accident can end up on your driving record. 

Merely filing claims doesn’t mean the accident will be noted on your driving record.

Your car insurance company isn’t contacting your DMV and informing them of the accident and associated claims. But even if your accident doesn’t show up on your driving record, it doesn’t mean that future car insurance companies won’t know about it and the associated claim.

Car insurance companies report claims to property loss databases. When you apply for auto insurance, you give the new insurer permission to check these loss reports. You might have heard of the reports referred to as C.L.U.E. reports because the most popular one is the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (maintained by LexisNexis Risk Solutions).

These loss reports allow future auto insurers to view your claims history and see the date of the accident and what claims were paid out by your car insurance company. So, if you skip listing the accident on a car insurance application, your insurer will still find out about it through the C.L.U.E. report and factor it into your rate.

An accident on your driving record or claims history could affect your future car insurance rates. If it does raise your rates, take the time to compare insurance companies.  One company may surcharge a minor accident while other insurers will not. This means rates can vary by hundreds of dollars, if not much more, from one insurer to the next.

— Penny Gusner contributed to this story.

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Our team is made up of regular people with insurance policy needs, just like you. We just happen to know a little more about insurance than the average bear.