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At-fault car accidents can have a major impact on your car insurance costs, but even accidents you didn't cause can trigger an increase in your premiums. However, the effect of a not-at-fault accident on your auto insurance rate tends to be smaller than the effect of an at-fault accident.
How Does a Not-at-Fault Accident Affect Your Car Insurance Premiums?
If you cause a car accident, your insurance premiums will likely increase. However, if another motorist causes an accident involving your car, your premiums may or may not go up, depending on where you live, the amount of damage and other factors, especially the type of car insurance you have. If your premiums do go up after a not-at-fault accident, the increase typically will be lower than if you were the at-fault driver.
Your premiums could rise if the at-fault driver has little or no car insurance. In this situation, your insurer might dip into your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to cover your accident-related expenses. In most states, uninsured/underinsured coverage is optional.
If you carry accident forgiveness coverage, your premiums may not increase after an accident, regardless of whether it was your fault and even if the accident was a major one. You may be eligible for an insurer's accident forgiveness coverage if, for instance, you go five years without filing an accident claim.
Aside from the not-at-fault accident itself, factors that could cause your premiums to increase include the severity of the accident and your driving record. In addition, the effect of a not-at-fault accident on your premiums varies from insurer to insurer. Some states also prohibit insurers from hiking rates following a not-at-fault accident.
How Is Fault Determined in an Accident?
Most of the time, an insurer will determine who's at fault in an accident by checking police reports and evidence from the scene, and by reviewing insurance laws in the state where the accident happened. In some states, how much each driver's insurance pays is calculated using the percentage of fault they bear for the accident as determined by claims investigators.
What Is No-Fault Insurance?
Some states require drivers to carry no-fault insurance or at least require insurers to offer it as an option. No-fault insurance helps cover medical expenses and loss of income for you and your passengers if you're hurt in an accident, regardless of who caused the crash.
No-fault insurance sometimes is known as personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
What Factors Are Used to Calculate Your Auto Insurance Premiums?
A number of factors go into calculating your auto insurance premiums. Aside from your accident history, they include:
- Your driving record
- Your claims history
- Where you live
- The type of car you drive
- How much you drive
- Your age
- Your gender
- Your marital status
- Your coverage limits
- Your deductibles
- Your eligibility for discounts
A combination of any of these factors can affect your insurance rates, even if you haven't been in an accident.
How Can You Save Money on Your Auto Insurance Premiums?
Even if you have an accident-free driving history, you still may be looking to save money on your auto insurance premiums. Here are six tips for lowering the cost of your car insurance.
- Shop around for coverage. By shopping around, you can compare rates charged by different insurers and then perhaps switch to a lower-cost provider. The Insurance Information Institute recommends obtaining and comparing car insurance quotes from at least three auto insurance companies.
- Increase your deductible. You can cut your auto insurance costs by bumping up your deductible from, say, $500 to $1,000.
- Bundle your policies. If you buy auto insurance from the same company that provides your homeowners insurance, for instance, you may be able to score some savings.
- Explore discounts. Aside from a bundling discount, you may be able to reduce your insurance premiums with discounts for such things as going without accidents or driving violations for a certain period of time.
- Cut back on driving. Some insurers offer discounts to motorists who log below-average annual mileage.
- Improve your credit. In states where it's allowed, insurance companies may factor your credit score in when calculating your premiums. The higher your score, the lower your auto insurance costs.
Shop Around for Auto Insurance Regularly
Switching car insurance can be worth it in the long run if you find cheaper premiums with another carrier. Taking a few minutes every year to evaluate the level of coverage you need and see if you can get a better rate with a different insurance company can go a long way toward minimizing the impact a not-at-fault accident may have on your insurance premiums. Experian's car insurance comparison tool can help you compare quotes from up to 40 car insurance providers in minutes.