A shocked person behind the wheel of her vehicle.

What’s a Chargeable Incident, and Does It Affect Your Insurance?

Updated March 21, 2024 . AmFam Team

If you have a vehicle, we’ll assume you have car insurance (and if you don’t, now is a great time to get it). That given, you’re probably aware that your driving history, such as prior accidents and tickets, among other factors, influence the amount you pay for your auto insurance. It also includes the driving records of anyone listed on your policy. These factors are otherwise known as chargeable incidents.

But what exactly does your insurance company deem chargeable, resulting in a premium increase? Here’s a high-level look at chargeable incidents and how they can affect your insurance rate.

Two people evaluating the damages after a minor car accident.

What is a chargeable incident?

A chargeable incident can involve an accident or a violation. It is an insurance-reported incident in which you are either at fault for an accident, ticketed or summoned to court. Usually, when you’re deemed 50% or more at fault for an accident, and the claim is over a certain dollar amount, your insurance company will consider the accident chargeable. That’s when they’ll apply a surcharge to your premium.

There are two main types of chargeable incidents: Accidents and violations.

People assessing the scene of a car accident.

A chargeable accident is an at-fault accident in which you caused damage to another person’s property or bodily injury, whether a simple fender bender or a more severe accident in which you totaled someone else’s car.

Person pulled over, getting a ticket.

A chargeable violation means you’ve been convicted of a driving violation, such as getting a ticket or citation. Some examples include speeding tickets, driving under the influence, and failure to stop and report an accident in which you were involved.

A couple reviewing a bill at a desk.

What is a car insurance surcharge?

Do you know that hike in your premium after an accident, ticket or citation? That’s your car insurance surcharge. In other words, it’s the penalty your insurance company pays for your driving blunder. 

We understand it’s frustrating when you see a hike in your premium. Still, your insurer applies a surcharge because a person who has an accident, ticket or citation is more likely to be involved in an accident in the future. So, your rate will increase because you’re considered a greater risk to your insurance company, and consequently, you have to pay more for your insurance because of that risk. 

You'll pay a higher premium until you prove you're a good driver, and then, thankfully, it will eventually go back down. Depending on the chargeable incident, the surcharge will remain in place for different periods, but it can last a few years or even longer.

Keep in mind that a car insurance surcharge can be applied to other things that don’t involve chargeable incidents, like late payment fees (avoid this by signing up for auto pay), lapses in coverage and even your car insurance credit score

Happy person holding a document while dialing her phone.

How to Avoid an Insurance Surcharge

Your driving habits often dictate your speeding tickets and other traffic violations. Following the rules of the road can usually help you avoid a price increase. 

While some at-fault accidents are due to negligence, sometimes, they're out of your hands. Either way, do what you can to stay safe on the road by practicing safe driving habits, such as preventing distracted driving.

We also have programs to help you improve your on-the-road safety, such as DriveMyWay, which helps you make smarter choices behind the wheel.

Want to learn more about auto insurance? Your American Family Insurance agent can help. Connect with yours to learn more.

This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. We do not make any guarantees or promise any results based on this information.

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