Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate drivers about...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Licensed Agent for 10 Years

UPDATED: Jan 30, 2020

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Many auto insurance companies now advertise “accident forgiveness” as a selling feature of their products. Most people assume this means they will not be held responsible for an accident, but this is not necessarily true.

Accident forgiveness operates differently between different companies, and each provider has its own way of dealing with at-fault accidents and rules about what the results of an accident will be.

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Typical accident forgiveness applies only to the first at-fault accident you have. Few companies will indemnify you, or refuse to hold you responsible, if you cause a second or subsequent accident. This is the only commonality between policies and programs, however.

Every auto insurance company has a slightly different way of implementing these types of situations.

What is the star rating when it comes to auto insurance?

Auto insurance rates are based, in part, on a “star” rating system. Six stars indicate a driver with no accidents, tickets, or other violations. Even a single accident, however, can reduce the customer to zero stars, which means the customer will pay significantly more for insurance coverage.

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Total Forgiveness

For some companies, accident forgiveness truly means that the accident has no effect on the star rating. The person’s auto insurance rates will remain the same with regard to the “star” system. This is called “total forgiveness.”

However, even those companies which offer true forgiveness may penalize a person who has an accident by removing safe-driver discounts, accident-free discounts, and claims-free discounts. This may result in increased auto insurance rates, even if your star rating does not change.

Partial Forgiveness

Another way of handling the accident forgiveness scenario is when a company does not move the star rating to a zero, but lowers it to a four- or five-star rating. This can affect auto insurance rates, although not to the degree that a zero rating would. Ultimately, the customer saves money over a situation in which there is no accident forgiveness protection.

However, valuable discounts may also be lost, resulting in even higher rates. This is called “partial forgiveness.”

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How do I buy accident forgiveness auto insurance?

Customers have two options for accident forgiveness policies. Some policies include accident forgiveness as a built-in feature of the policy. It is there without further charge, and you can utilize it if you meet the requirements of an accident-forgiveness scenario.

Other policies require you to add on accident forgiveness as an endorsement. When this is the case, you usually have two choices: to purchase an accident forgiveness endorsement alone, or to also purchase a protective policy that keeps your discounts in place even if you are involved in an accident.

This is “true forgiveness,” and it is also the type of accident-forgiveness policy that costs the most to purchase.

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Can I still be sued with an accident forgiveness auto insurance policy?

Whether the insurance company decides to “forgive” your accident or not, there are still other consequences. You can be sued by the injured party, in which case your insurance company will have to absorb the costs of the suit up to the policy limits. It is also possible that your driver’s license will be affected.

Auto insurance companies base yearly premium increases on information obtained from your state’s DMV, so whether the accident is reported by the victim to your insurance company or not, the company will eventually find out. This could affect your current coverage and prejudice any other insurance companies with which you choose to do business in the future.

Further, accident forgiveness does not mean that you can fail to report an accident to your insurer. You are required, in most cases, to inform your insurer of the accident within a given time period, or face loss of coverage.

Trying to cover up an accident is dangerous, as there is no way to know when the company will review DMV records and discover the crash. At that point, the company may have grounds to terminate your coverage.

What auto insurance companies offer accident forgiveness?

If you are interested in finding a company that offers accident forgiveness, there are several ways to do so. First, you could make some calls to local agents and talk to them about their company’s accident forgiveness policy. This is usually a good way to get an idea of what agents in your area are doing with regard to accident forgiveness.

You can also go online and receive personalized insurance quotes from a website that compiles these figures for you.

Be sure to compare auto insurance offerings carefully, however. Not all policies include the same coverage, and not all policies insure you for the same amounts.

You should check carefully to find out the company’s accident forgiveness policy, and base your decision on which company offers the coverage and options you need at a price you can afford.

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