How Long Does a Car Accident Affect Car Insurance Rates in Washington State?
Crumpled car with shattered glass

Traffic Colliisions can impact your insurance rates for up to 5 years in Washington State. From the length of time a car accident stays on your driving record to strategies for lowering your premiums, we’ve got you covered. Buckle up because we’re about to take you on a journey through the complex world of car accidents and insurance rates.

Key Takeaways

  • Car accidents stay on your driving record for a 5 years in Washington state.
  • Most insurance companies only surcharge for accidents for the first 3 years but you may not get the ‘accident free’ discount till the accident is over 5 years old.
  • If you were not at fault for an accident, you won’t be surcharged for the accident but you may lose the ‘accident free’ discount for 5 years.
  • There are strategies for lowering insurance rates after an accident, such as defensive driver discounts, researching for more affordable coverage, and bundling multiple policies with one insurer.

Duration of Accidents on Washington Driving Record

In Washington State, a non-commercial accident stays on your driver’s license for 5 years, while commercial vehicle accidents stay on record for 10 years.

Typically, car accidents, like other violations, don’t affect your car insurance rates until the next renewal. In Washington, the insurance companies charge extra for an accident for the first 3 years. But they won’t put the ‘accident free’ discount on your policy until it is over 5 years old. This is a bit of a word game since you will be paying more for 2 years after your accident ‘falls off’. But the insurance company does not consider it a surcharge, just the removal of a discount.

Keep in mind that accident forgiveness may be available in certain situations. It’s important to check if your insurer offers this option before needing it.

Fault and Insurance Rates

Understanding fault is crucial when it comes to determining how car accidents can impact your insurance rates. Here are some key points to consider:

  • If you weren’t at fault for an accident, it might not count against you.
  • Premium increase after an accident usually lasts for three to five years.
  • The surcharge may decrease over time if no further accidents occur.

Knowing how fault is determined in your state and how it affects your insurance rates is essential. It’s important to understand your rights and options when it comes to insurance coverage after an accident.

Lowering Insurance Rates After an Accident

To lower your insurance rates after an accident, you can take proactive steps to reduce your premiums and explore other coverage options.

One option is to take advantage of defensive driver discounts, which may help lower your rates.

Additionally, you can ask your independent insurance agent to search for more affordable coverage from other insurance companies. However, it’s important to research before making changes to your coverage to avoid lapses or denial of coverage.

Keep in mind that leaving your current provider could potentially raise your future insurance rates.

To ensure you make an informed decision, it’s recommended to get quotes for new policies, as there’s no penalty for doing so.

Handling Car Accidents

If you have recently experienced a car accident, it’s important to know how to handle this situation effectively. Here are some key strategies to consider:

  • Stay calm and gather information: Take a deep breath and collect all the necessary details about the accident, including photos, witness statements, and police reports. This will help you provide accurate information to your insurance company, especially if the accident was not your fault.
  • Contact your insurance company: Call the claims phone number on your phone to notify your insurance company about the accident as soon as possible. Be honest and provide all the necessary information. They’ll guide you through the claims process.
  • Shop around for better rates: Your independent agent can shop some rates for you but you also should take the time to compare insurance rates from multiple providers. Just be sure to know the coverage you currently have so you can ask for the same (or better) coverage.
  • Practice safe driving: After an accident, it’s crucial to maintain a clean driving record. Avoid further accidents and tickets to gradually see your rates reduce over time.

Being involved in a car accident can be stressful, but by following these strategies, you can navigate the situation with confidence and potentially save money in the long run.

Defensive Driver Discounts

When it comes to handling car insurance rates, one way to potentially lower your premiums is by taking advantage of defensive driver discounts. Defensive driver discounts are offered by many insurance companies as a reward for safe driving habits and completing approved defensive driving courses.

These discounts can vary in amount, but they generally range from 5% to 15% off your premium. To qualify for a defensive driver discount, you typically need to meet certain criteria, such as having a clean driving record for a specified period of time or completing an approved defensive driving course.

It’s important to note that not all insurance companies offer defensive driver discounts, so it’s a good idea to shop around and compare quotes from different providers to find the best rates and discounts for your specific circumstances.

Searching for Affordable Coverage

Finding affordable coverage is a crucial step in managing your car insurance rates after an accident. Here are five key factors to consider when searching for affordable coverage:

  • Compare quotes from multiple insurance providers to ensure you’re getting the best rate.
  • Look for discounts that may be available to you, such as safe driver discounts or bundled policy discounts.
  • Consider adjusting your coverage to meet your specific needs. For example, if you have an older car, you may not need comprehensive coverage.
  • Maintain a good credit score, as insurers often use this to determine your premium.
  • Take advantage of technology by using telematics devices or mobile apps that can track your driving habits and potentially lower your rates.

Bundling Multiple Policies

To save money on your car insurance rates after an accident, consider bundling multiple policies with one insurer.

Bundling refers to purchasing different types of insurance, such as auto, home, and life insurance, from the same provider. By doing so, you may be eligible for a discount on your premiums.

Insurers often offer special rates for customers who choose to bundle their policies, as it encourages loyalty and reduces administrative costs for the company.

Additionally, bundling can simplify your insurance management by consolidating all your policies under one provider. This can make it easier to keep track of your coverage and make any necessary changes.

However, it’s important to review the terms and conditions of each policy to ensure that you have adequate coverage for your specific needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How Long Do Car Accidents Stay on Your Driving Record in Washington?
A. Car accidents usually stay on your driving record in Washington for 5 years.

Q. Will My Insurance Rates Increase if I Am Not at Fault for the Accident?
A. If you’re not at fault for the accident, your insurance rates may not increase. However, it varies by insurance company. Check with your agent to find out how your company treats not-at-fault accidents.

Q. Can I Switch Insurance Providers After an Accident to Get a Lower Rate?
A. Yes, you can switch insurance providers after an accident to potentially get a lower rate. It’s important to research and compare quotes to find the best option for your situation.

Q. Are There Any Penalties for Getting Quotes From Multiple Insurance Companies?
A. There are no penalties for getting quotes from multiple insurance companies. It’s actually a smart move to compare rates and find the best deal. Take advantage of this opportunity to save money on your insurance.


Understanding how car accidents can impact your insurance rates is crucial for every driver. By knowing how long an accident affects your rate and strategies for lowering premiums, you can navigate the complexities of insurance more effectively.

Remember, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’ So, drive safely, be aware of the potential consequences, and take proactive steps to protect yourself and your wallet.

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