Accident Forgiveness Car Insurance

What is Accident Forgiveness?

Accident forgiveness is an auto insurance benefit that may prevent insurance rates from increasing as a result of a driver’s first at-fault accident. It can be added to a policy or awarded to those with a good driving record. Accident forgiveness may allow drivers to save on their premiums and retain good driver discounts.

GEICO Accident Forgiveness* can be earned or purchased in states where it is available.

With Accident Forgiveness on your GEICO auto insurance policy, your insurance rate won’t go up as a result of your first at-fault accident. We waive the surcharge associated with the first at-fault accident caused by an eligible driver on your policy. GEICO Accident Forgiveness is per policy, not per driver. If you have multiple drivers on your policy, any of the eligible drivers may use this benefit once.

accident forgiveness car insurance

What Is a “Chargeable Accident”?

A “chargeable” accident is one in which the insurance company has determined you were at fault in some way. Your accident may be chargeable if you’re more than 50% at fault. Chargeable accidents also include:

Damage you cause to another person’s property.

A crash that causes injury or death.

A chargeable accident can be as simple as a fender bender or as serious as totaling someone’s car. Usually, when an insurance company decides an accident is chargeable, it adds a surcharge to your premium. A surcharge is an increase in the cost of your policy.

Some states also define a chargeable accident in terms of a dollar amount, such as:

In Massachusetts, you may see an insurance surcharge if the accident involves a claim payment of over $1,000 for damage to someone else’s property, a collision or bodily injury to others (for accidents where the operator is more than 50% at fault and driving a private passenger vehicle).

In Minnesota, an accident is chargeable when the insurer pays more than $500 under bodily injury liability, collision or property damage liability coverage.

In New York, you can receive a surcharge if you’re found at fault for an auto accident involving losses of property or injury over $2,000.

Unfortunately, a chargeable accident can follow you around for a while. Some insurance companies gradually decrease your surcharge every year you go without an accident. In many states, your surcharge can be lowered gradually over three years until it disappears completely as long as you’re accident-free.

It’s important to note that not every type of accident will make your insurance go up. Here are some examples of accidents that typically won’t result in a surcharge:

  • Your car was parked and hit by another vehicle.
  • Your car was struck in the rear and you were not convicted of a moving traffic violation in connection with the accident.
  • You were struck by a hit-and-run driver.
  • The other driver was convicted of the moving violation but you were not.
  • The accident involved contact with an animal.
  • The accident resulted in physical damage, limited to and caused by flying gravel, missiles or falling objects.
  • Defective tires caused the accident.
  • The accident occurred while in pursuit of official duties as a law enforcement officer or emergency vehicles.

Types of Accident Forgiveness Car Insurance

There are three primary types of accident forgiveness offered by insurance providers.

Free Add-on For Loyal Customers: If you’re a long-time customer with a relatively clean driving record, some insurance companies will reward you for your loyalty and give you accident forgiveness free of charge.

Paid Product: Other insurance providers offer accident forgiveness as a paid product, but only if you qualify. Meaning if you haven’t had an at-fault claim within three years and/or you haven’t been convicted of any moving violations within the calendar year, you may qualify.

Hybrid: Insurance companies can also offer accident forgiveness coverage to less safe drivers (with previous claims) or as an incentive for customers to keep a spotless driving record for a few years (often, for five years) before they qualify for free coverage.

Accident Forgiveness Insurance Rules

Even if your car insurance company offers accident forgiveness coverage, not everyone qualifies and some accidents won’t be eligible for forgiveness. Here are a few examples of common requirements and exclusions you should be aware of:

Clean driving record. Typically, insurers require you  to have a clean driving record to qualify for accident forgiveness. For example, to qualify for the Farmers Flex from Farmers Insurance, all drivers on the policy over age 25 must have no chargeable at‐fault accidents, no more than one minor or speeding citation and no DUIs. Drivers under age 25 must have no traffic violations or citations of any kind.

One accident per policy. Accident forgiveness is not an unlimited pass. Usually it allows forgiveness for only one at-fault accident per policy, even if you have multiple drivers on the policy.

What Are At-Fault Accidents?

When an insurance company talks about “at-fault” accidents, what they’re referring to is whether an accident is a chargeable offense (accident or violation) or not (minor fender bender). In other words, any time your insurance company is contacted, and you’re more than 50% at fault with damages that exceed a threshold (e.g., $1,000), then the incident is deemed “chargeable.” 

Chargeable offenses result in an increase to your premiums via the addition of a surcharge. Surcharges can be as high as 90% and can affect your premiums for the next three years. Another thing to note is surcharges vary depending on your accident, age, and state.

The difference between chargeable violations and accidents are:

Chargeable Violation: At-fault violations imply that you’re guilty of committing a moving violation (e.g., speeding). Chargeable Accident: An at-fault accident indicates that you’re responsible for automotive damage, causing bodily harm or property damage. Examples of at-fault accidents are fender benders or injuries incurred during an at-fault car accident.

Is Accident Forgiveness Insurance Worth it?

Accident forgiveness may be worth it, especially if you have high-risk drivers in your household.

Our analysis of the national average annual cost of accident forgiveness from some large companies finds it’s usually pretty affordable.

We compared the annual cost of accident forgiveness to the price of coverage without it and how much more you’d pay with an accident on your record. After crunching the numbers, we found accident forgiveness is worth the extra cost.

For example:

You’d pay an amount equal to eight years of accident forgiveness with USAA car insurance to equal the $472 USAA rate hike from an accident. And remember that increase would continue for three to five years normally, so paying $60 a year to combat a hike is worth it.

You’d pay what is equal to 61 years of accident forgiveness costs with Nationwide car insurance to equal the over $900 rate increase for one at-fault accident with injury. Thus, accident forgiveness with Nationwide is quite the bargain.

Insurance Companies That Offer Accident Forgiveness

It’s important to note that each insurance company has varying features and requirements for their accident forgiveness coverage. Companies that offer accident forgiveness include:

Allstate offers the optional coverage of accident forgiveness. The eligibility rules vary, but generally, you must have been accident-free for three to five years.

American Family has accident forgiveness you can purchase or can earn. You can buy the coverage at the start of your policy or at renewal time as long as household drivers haven’t had at-fault accidents or driving violations in the last 12 months and no more than one at-fault accident in the last three years. You can earn American Family accident forgiveness by having no claims for five years and no major violations on your record.

Auto-Owners offers this benefit for purchase if drivers on your policy have been without at-fault claims or major violations for the preceding 36-month period.

Erie offers “first accident forgiveness” after you’ve been a customer of Erie for at least three years.

Farmers forgives one at-fault accident for every three years you drive without having an accident.

Geico allows policyholders to receive accident forgiveness for free either by maintaining a clean driving record or by purchasing coverage as an upgrade to an auto insurance policy. To receive this coverage for free, drivers must be accident-free for five years. Drivers who are under age 21 might not be eligible.

Liberty Mutual offers accident forgiveness as additional coverage. To qualify, drivers must have no accidents or traffic violations within the last five years. Drivers under age 25 must have five years of a completely clean driving record before they qualify.

Nationwide offers accident forgiveness coverage as an add-on to an auto insurance policy. Like many other accident forgiveness policies, Nationwide forgives your first at-fault auto accident or a minor violation that would normally get a surcharge.

Progressive customers can receive “small accident forgiveness” (rates don’t increase for claims less than $500) and “large accident forgiveness” for free through the Progressive Loyalty Rewards program. For large accident forgiveness, you must be a Progressive customer for at least five years and accident-free for three straight years. You can also buy accident forgiveness coverage that allows one accident forgiven per policy period. So if you combine the free and paid coverages you could have more than one accident forgiven during the same policy period.

The Hartford provides accident forgiveness if all drivers on your policy have been free of accidents and moving violations for the last five years.

Travelers offers a Responsible Driver Plan that includes accident forgiveness coverage and minor violation forgiveness. This plan forgives one minor violation and one accident every three years.

USAA provides this optional coverage for free after five years if your household drivers have been free of at-fault accidents.

Accident Forgiveness Alternatives

If you don’t qualify for accident forgiveness or your provider does not offer it, these are the good driver alternatives:

Discounts for Good Drivers: To reward good driver’s some companies will pay back a portion of your premium after a sustained period without incident (e.g., after 12 months)– meaning a discount of 5%-25% off your annual premium. Vanishing Deductibles: Another discount for good drivers is vanishing deductibles which means, for every year you’re at-fault free, your deductible (e.g., $50) decreases up to a certain dollar amount (up to $500). Deductibles are the upfront fee everyone pays when you put an insurance claim through (at-fault or not). Accident-Free Discounts: The final discount for good drivers is a discount for every year you’re accident-free. Called an accident-free discount, you’ll receive savings up to a certain amount determined by your insurance provider.

FAQs

Do you pay extra for accident forgiveness?

You’ll typically have to pay extra for accident forgiveness. Some car insurance companies offer accident forgiveness as a free perk to qualified drivers with good records. For example, Geico offers free accident forgiveness to drivers who have been accident-free for five years.

What are the benefits of Accident Forgiveness?

Greater peace of mind while driving
Worry less about your insurance rate increasing
Keep any good driver discounts
Score additional savings because your premium won’t increase

How much does insurance go up after an accident?

It all depends on the details of the accident, including the cost of damages and severity. One thing is for sure, without Accident Forgiveness, you can expect your rate to increase after if you’re at fault.

How long does an at-fault accident stay on my record?

This largely depends on the at-fault accident and where you live because state laws differ as to how long an accident stays on your record. But the surcharge will likely remain for a couple of years.

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