Ouch, Californians pay big car insurance penalty for first crash

An insurance claim for an auto accident will cost Californians dearly compared with drivers in most other states.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)
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Californians pay a far bigger insurance penalty than drivers in most other states for causing a traffic accident.

That’s the finding of, an insurance shopping company that surveyed how much a driver’s premiums rise after one accident.

Car insurance premiums for Californian rise by an average of 62% after a single claim, according to the report. That’s the second-steepest hike in the country.


Nationally, drivers pay an average of 38% more for car insurance after making a single claim. Residents of Massachusetts pay the largest increase, 67%. New Jersey is third after California with a 59% rise.

Maryland has the smallest increase, just 20%, followed by Alabama at 22% and Michigan at 23%.

Don’t even think about having a second accident that’s your fault. Nationally, that sends premiums soaring to 86% over a claim-free driver with a similar policy.

“The biggest lesson for consumers is not to file a claim unless absolutely necessary,” said Laura Adams, an analyst at “Making a claim for a few hundred dollars doesn’t make sense if your premium is going to skyrocket as a result.”

Some insurers offer customers a chance to insure themselves against a rate hike if they cause an accident. Nationwide sells it as an “accident-forgiveness” option but notes: “It can only be used for one forgiven accident per policy.”

For the study, commissioned Quadrant Information Services to calculate rates using data from six large carriers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The assumptions included a $2,000 claim and policy limits of $100,000 for injury liability for one person, $300,000 for all injuries and a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage.



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