Do You Have to Tell Your Insurer About Old Accidents?

Telling your insurer about an old accident is always in your best interest. Car accidents stay on your record for up to seven years, and you have to tell your insurer about old accidents if you want to maintain your coverage. What happens if you don't tell your insurance about an accident? Your auto insurance claim could be denied, and you could be denied coverage in the future or have your policy canceled altogether.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Insurance Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jun 6, 2022

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So you have an accident on your driving record. You’re applying for car insurance – but you want to get a great price. A single at-fault accident can cause car insurance premiums to double. Do you really have to tell your car insurance company about an old accident? Or can you safely ignore an old accident and hope your car insurance company never finds out?

Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about informing your insurance company of old accidents.

Car Insurance Companies Can Easily Learn About Your Driving History

Generally, it’s in your best interest to tell your insurance company the truth about your driving history.

The reason is simple: your insurance company can easily pull your driving record and claims history. This information is kept by the DMV, CLUE, and other organizations.

If you tell your car insurance company that you have a clean driving record, then the car insurance company will verify that information by checking your driving record.

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How Car Insurance Companies Discover Your Driving Record

Auto insurance companies will “check your driving record” by ordering two main reports:

Motor Vehicle Report or Motor Vehicle Record: This is a record kept by the state in which you are licensed. The report includes accidents and violations associated with you as a driver. Typically, the report includes 3 to 10 years of driving history. If you want to check your Motor Vehicle Report, then you can request a copy of the report from your local DMV.

Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange Report (CLUE): Car insurance companies will also pull your CLUE report. This report is more comprehensive than the Motor Vehicle Report. It includes claims information about you as a driver, other drivers in your household, and related claims and accidents involving vehicles registered in your name or vehicles that were registered to your address. A CLUE reports contains 7 years of data.

Using these two reports, an insurance company can easily check information associated with your driving history over the past seven years. If you have been in any collisions, accidents, or related incidents over the past 7 years, then the insurance company should quickly find out.

Your Insurance Could Be Canceled If You Lie About Old Accidents

What happens if you lie about a car accident on your driving history, but still purchase car insurance with that accident on your record?

In some cases, a car insurance company might provide you with car insurance immediately after you purchase it. You receive car insurance before the company completes the underwriting process. During the underwriting process, the car insurance company is essentially running a background check on the policyholder to determine your perceived level of risk as a policyholder.

Technically, that means you have car insurance coverage until the car insurance company completes the underwriting process.

What happens if the insurance company discovers an unreported accident during the underwriting process?

Depending on the severity of your lie, the car insurance company could take different actions:

  • Your car insurance premiums could increase
  • Your car insurance policy could be canceled
  • The car insurance company might refuse to cover you

In some cases, as we’ll talk about below, failure to report an old accident could even lead your insurance company to deny a future claim.

Failure to Report an Old Accident Can Cause a Future Claim to Be Denied

If you fail to report an old accident to your insurance company, then it can cause a future claim to be denied.

Let’s say you “forgot” to mention a five-year old car accident when applying for car insurance. You’re still able to purchase car insurance and legally drive while the underwriting process is being completed. However, you get into an accident during this time. You make a claim on your insurance policy, but your car insurance company denies your claim because you lied on your application by omitting the old accident.

In some cases, an insurance company might not thoroughly investigate your background until after you make a claim. You might have assumed that you had car insurance coverage for several months. Then, you make a claim and the claim gets denied because you lied on your auto insurance application.

For all of these reasons, it’s generally in your best interest to tell the truth about your accident history.

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Car Accidents Affect Car Insurance Rates for 3 to 7 Years

Some car insurance companies ignore car accidents that occurred more than five years ago. Some car insurance companies ignore accidents past five or seven years. Laws can also vary from state to state.

Typically, the car insurance company will mention this on your car insurance application. You’ll see a question like this:

How many at-fault accidents have you been involved in over the last 7 years?

As mentioned above, it’s in your best interest to answer that question truthfully. Your insurance company will determine your accident history anyway by pulling your CLUE report or Motor Vehicle report.

It’s rare for a car insurance company to ask about accidents older than seven years. As mentioned above, the CLUE report and Motor Vehicle Report go back a maximum of 7 years. Even if an insurance company found old accidents on your driving record, these accidents are unlikely to affect your insurance premiums today.

Remember: changing vehicles doesn’t absolve your driving history. Changing car insurance companies doesn’t mean you can ignore any claims made on your old policy. All of this information is tracked – and that’s why you have to tell insurers about old accidents.

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