Safe drivers typically have lower car insurance rates, but even the best drivers sometimes end up in a car accident. Should a good driver really be punished for an accident by raising their rates?
First accident forgiveness is an optional type of coverage that allows safe, responsible drivers to avoid seeing an increase in their insurance rates after a single accident. As long as there are no other accidents or traffic violations on their record, a driver with first accident forgiveness doesn’t need to worry about paying more for car insurance.
First accident forgiveness is an optional coverage that allows you to file an accident claim with your insurance company without seeing an increase in your rates
Sometimes first accident forgiveness is a free option given by your insurance company, but often it is an add-on coverage that you can purchase for an extra fee
Each company sets their own standards on their first accident forgiveness benefit
What is first accident forgiveness?
First accident forgiveness, often referred to simply as accident forgiveness, is an optional coverage that allows you to file an accident claim with your insurance company without seeing an increase in your rates. Sometimes first accident forgiveness is a free option given by your insurance company, but often it is an add-on coverage that you can purchase for an extra fee.
Filing a claim for an at-fault accident can increase your rates by a significant amount, so first accident forgiveness can potentially save you hundreds of dollars each year. However, if you don’t ever file an accident claim you are essentially paying for something you don’t need. If accident forgiveness isn’t a free benefit, it is up to each individual driver to determine their risk level and whether or not it is worth purchasing accident forgiveness coverage.
How first accident forgiveness works
First accident forgiveness varies significantly from company to company, but it is a relatively simple process. If you get into an accident, you can file a claim with your insurance company and the claims adjuster determines the cost of the claim. If the claim is less than the maximum amount allowed by your accident forgiveness coverage, your car insurance won’t go up.
Each company sets their own standards on their first accident forgiveness benefit. This includes:
How much to charge: Some companies offer accident forgiveness as a free benefit, others charge a fee for the coverage
When to offer the benefit: Some companies offer it to anyone who signs up for a policy, others require you to be a customer for a minimum number of years before you can take advantage of first accident forgiveness
What type of benefit to offer: Some companies just offer blanket accident forgiveness, while others break the benefit down into small and large accident forgiveness
Small accident forgiveness
This coverage offers accident forgiveness for at-fault claims that are $500 or less. Small accident forgiveness is often, though not always, given as a free benefit to qualified drivers.
Drivers with high deductibles may find that small accident forgiveness isn’t as valuable to them because they won’t file a claim for less than the amount of their deductible.
Large accident forgiveness
Typically offered for a fee or as a customer loyalty benefit, this coverage offers accident forgiveness for at-fault claims that are more than $500.
Many insurance companies only offer large accident forgiveness to those who have a clean driving record for three years or more. This includes violations as well as accidents, so drivers with traffic tickets may not be eligible for large accident forgiveness.
Who is eligible for first accident forgiveness?
Each company is different, but there are some standard eligibility requirements for drivers who want to add first accident forgiveness to their coverage.
Drivers with clean driving records
Drivers with an accident or other violations on their record
Drivers who have been customers of the company long enough to meet the criteria, typically 3-5 years
Drivers who haven't been customers long enough to qualify for the benefit
Keep in mind that some companies offer auto insurance with accident forgiveness as an add-on benefit, so you may be able to purchase the coverage without waiting until you have been a customer for a certain number of years.
Which companies offer first accident forgiveness?
There are many insurance companies that offer car insurance with accident forgiveness, including:
Allstate: Allstate offers accident forgiveness as an add-on option for drivers with clean driving records.
Progressive: Progressive offers large accident forgiveness as part of a loyalty program and small accident forgiveness as a standard benefit to new customers with a clean driving record.
Nationwide: Nationwide offers accident forgiveness as an add-on benefit in some states.
Liberty Mutual: Liberty Mutual offers accident forgiveness in some states. Accident forgiveness is only available to drivers with no accidents or violations in the last 5 years.
USAA: USAA offers accident forgiveness to their customers in most states who have no at-fault accidents as USAA customers for five years.
GEICO: GEICO offers accident forgiveness for an additional fee in most states, but they also offer the benefit to drivers who have been with the company for an unspecified number of years.
Other insurance companies may offer first accident forgiveness car insurance as well, so check with your insurance agent to see if the coverage is available on your policy.
Alternatives to first accident forgiveness
There are other options for drivers who have a blemish on their driving record or who live in a state that doesn’t allow accident forgiveness, including:
Claim free discount: Many insurance companies offer discounted rates for drivers who have no claims for three years or more.
Disappearing deductible: Some insurance companies offer a disappearing or vanishing deductible, which means they take $50 off your deductible each year until your deductible reaches $0. Typically this only applies to deductibles that are $500 or less.
Safe driver discount: Some insurance companies offer a discount for drivers who complete a safe driving course.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who needs accident forgiveness?
First accident forgiveness is a nice feature to have, but it typically isn’t a necessary coverage. The only people who probably need to seek out accident forgiveness coverage are people who find that their likelihood of being in an accident is higher than average. For example, people who spend a lot of time on the road, such as rideshare drivers, may find that accident forgiveness is worth the extra money.
Is accident forgiveness worth it?
If you use the coverage, accident forgiveness is absolutely worth it. Being at fault in an accident can raise your insurance rates by a significant amount, so anyone who could not afford a sizable rate increase may want to consider purchasing the coverage. However, most drivers will only be in a few accidents over the course of their lifetime, so you could end up paying for first accident forgiveness for a decade or more before you use it.
Why isn’t accident forgiveness available in California?
The state of California has laws in place that prevent insurance companies from charging fees without a justifiable reason. First accident forgiveness is not allowed because charging drivers higher rates before they've been in an accident is considered excessive.