You may continue to feel the impact of an auto accident years after it occurs. The hits to your motor vehicle or driving record and to your insurance rates are exclusive of one another, yet related. The length of time that an accident stays on your driving record depends on the severity of the accident and whether you were at fault. It also depends on state regulations, although time frames vary by state.
Accident Effects on Insurance
Although your record directly impacts how much you will pay for your auto insurance policy, not all accidents result in an insurance hike, or surcharge. For instance, a minor fender bender for a driver with an otherwise spotless driving record, or a not-at-fault accident, may be forgiven by some insurance companies.
Major at-fault accidents increase insurance the most and affect insurance costs the longest. The length of time you pay a surcharge following an accident is known as the chargeable period. Minor and moderate accidents usually result in chargeable periods of approximately three years; however, DUI or hit-and-run accidents can lead to chargeable periods of 10 years or more. In many states, a surcharge can decrease over three years with a good driving record following an accident.
Accidents on Record For Years
Most states use a point system to track your traffic violations and accidents. You accumulate a certain number of points for certain violations. For example, you might get one point for a minor speeding ticket, but two points for drunk driving. In California, which uses a point system, most accidents stay on record for 39 months, but accidents involving hit-and-runs or DUIs stay on record for 13 years. In Florida, most accidents stay on record for either three or five years, and alcohol-related accidents stay on record for 75 years. In Texas, most accidents stay on your record for 15 years, but serious accidents, such as driving while intoxicated, never come off of a driving record.
Expunging a Driving Record
Expungement, or expunction, is a court-ordered process by which a criminal record is erased or essentially, sealed, from public view. It is sometimes referred to as "setting aside." Expungement in terms of a driving record allows a driver to omit information on a job application or other paperwork about an arrest or conviction arising from an accident. Law enforcement and government agencies may still access expunged records. To get your driving record expunged, you must prove that your driving- or accident-related arrest or conviction was not lawful or that sufficient time has passed and that you are a responsible driver. Each state and motor vehicle authority has different requirements for expungement, and not all states or cases allow an accident to be erased from your driving record. Contact your county clerk or DMV to obtain information about your case and determine whether you qualify.
Obtaining a Copy of a Driving Record
A copy of your driving record and an understanding of how long accidents remain on your record help you determine when your insurance rates will start to go down and whether you have the opportunity to remove an accident through expungement. Private vendors, court clerks and motor vehicle authorities, such as the DMV or BMV, may provide you with a copy of your driving record for free or for a fee. Ordering a copy of your record may be as easy as looking it up online for free through your DMV or submitting an application, which you download or pick up, and remitting payment. Sensitive information, such as full name, date of birth, Social Security number and driver's license number must be submitted to obtain a copy of your driving record.
Read More: What Is an H6 Driving Record?
Minor accidents and accidents that aren't your fault may show up on your driving record for three to five years; however, insurance providers may forgive minor fender benders for good drivers.
Karina C. Hernandez is a licensed real estate agent since 2004 in San Diego. She has written legal articles pertaining to housing and real estate for multiple internet channels over the past 10 years. She has a B.A. in English from UCLA.