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Insurance Deductible Guide: Do I Pay My Auto Deductible When I’m Not at Fault?

Dealing with an auto accident is incredibly stressful. If you’re in an accident that left your vehicle damaged and the insurance company determines you’re not at fault, one of the first questions that may come to your mind is, “Do I pay my auto deductible when I’m not at fault?”.

In short, you don’t have to pay an auto deductible when you’re not at fault. However, there are situations where you may consider paying a deductible to have your vehicle repaired.

How Do Car Insurance Deductibles Work?

An auto deductible amount is what you have to pay for car repairs or replacement when you have comprehensive or collision coverage. It is what you have to pay from your pocket on a claim before the insurance company covers the remaining loss.

Deductibles are commonly required with collision insurance coverage and comprehensive coverage. Sometimes, you may have to pay a deductible on personal injury protection and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Some insurers provide a disappearing deductible program whereby your deductible amount will decrease or be waived if you go a set amount of time without a claim or violation.

But do you have to pay your deductible if you’re not at fault for a car accident?

The party paying deductible following an auto accident depends on several factors, including who files a claim, who is at fault, the laws in your residing state, and the willingness to wait. All the information is typically available in an individual’s policy documents but let’s explore some essential details here.

Who Pays for a Deductible If I’m Not at Fault for the Car Accident?

If you’re in an accident that was not your fault, you do not have to pay a car insurance deductible. The responsible party will have to pay their insurance company a deductible to repair their vehicle. 

At the same time, their insurance company must repair or cover your car up to the policy limits. Simply put, you have to pay a deductible if you’re looking to claim against your policy instead of the responsible party’s policy.

You may be feeling confused about why you would consider filing a claim under your policy instead of claiming under the at-fault driver’s insurer. There are several reasons for that. 

Let’s discuss those.

Why Would You Want to File a Claim under the At-fault Driver’s Insurance Company?

You may find that the responsible party’s insurance company is taking too long to payout, repair your vehicle or have you compensated if the vehicle is a total loss. You may be waiting for months for the check to come in the mail for you to make repairs on your car, which can leave you without personal transportation for quite a while, affecting your daily routine.

Many choose to file a claim with their own insurance company as they can assist with the repairs much quicker than the other driver’s insurance company. However, if you’re filing a claim with your insurer, you will have to pay a deductible upfront and let your insurer deal with recovering the deductible through a process known as “subrogation.”

Subrogation is an insurer’s legal right to pursue a third party to recover debt or damages from them. Your own insurer would seek reimbursement from the negligent party’s insurer. But the process can take longer than pursuing a claim directly under the at-fault driver’s insurance company for your motor vehicle accident. However, once your insurance company recovers the damages, they will reimburse you your deductible amount.

The processing time for deductible recovery can range from a couple of weeks to about six months or more. It depends on the cooperation extended by both sides in providing the relevant and necessary information to help determine the at-fault driver.

If you’ve suffered injuries in a car accident that was not your fault, you would also be looking to recover compensation through a personal injury claim. However, a personal injury claim process is time-consuming (depending on the injuries and medical treatment). It is crucial to keep your injury and property damage claim separate.

Why Shouldn’t You File a Claim under Your Car Insurance Company?

After a car accident, if you don’t have the finances to pay the deductible, going through the at-fault driver’s insurance company is the best route for you. 

Playing the long waiting game is the only option if you don’t have money for the auto deductible. Remember, you don’t have to pay deductibles in an accident that was not your fault, but you would have to wait a long time before you receive a payout or have your vehicle repaired.

Another crucial thing to remember is that even with the subrogation process, there is no guarantee that your insurance company will receive the deductible if you file claims under your insurer. Many car accident victims save themselves money by deciding to file claims under the at-fault driver’s insurance company and wait.

There are so many insurance companies with varying policies. Reading your policy and learning about your rights as a car accident victim is essential to get the most out of it. Even if you have full coverage insurance, it may not include rental car coverage.

You may want to have your vehicle repaired as soon as possible and approach your insurance company. However, if your policy does not have rental car coverage, you would still need to go through the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.

Another reason you may consider filing a claim under the at-fault driver’s policy rather than yours is insurance premiums. Some insurers may raise premiums for a car accident that wasn’t your fault, which can affect your annual expenses. Reviewing your insurance policy to help you make an informed decision is the best option in the future.

Who Pays for a Deductible for a Car Accident in a State Following Comparative Negligence Laws?

In states with comparative negligence laws, the fault of the accident is divided according to each party’s contribution to the accident. If the responsibility for your motor vehicle accident is shared, you may end up paying all or part of the auto deductible.

Do I Have to Pay Deductible under Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage?

Most states require drivers to have car insurance before they can legally drive. However, according to Insurance Information Institute, about one in every eight people did not have auto insurance in 2019. 

Suppose you’re in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, and it wasn’t your fault. In that case, you may find it challenging to recover compensation from the negligent party, which is why it is crucial to have uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance coverage.

Filing a claim under underinsured/uninsured motorist insurance coverage can help recover medical bills without the need to pay a deductible. You can also have your car repaired (within the policy limits). However, in some states, you may have to pay a deductible if you wish for uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage coverage to pay for it.

Are There Any Other Situations Where Auto Insurance Deductible Doesn’t Apply to Me?

The following are some situations where you don’t have to pay for auto insurance deductible following an accident.

Other Driver Files Claim Against Your Liability Coverage

If the other driver files a liability claim against your insurer, you will not have to pay a deductible. The same would apply to you if you were to file a car accident claim against a negligent party’s insurer.

You Have Disappearing Deductible

Disappearing deductible is a program offered in some states whereby the policyholder’s deductible goes down for each violation- and claim-free policy period. 

After a certain number of policy periods, the deductibles may go down to $0 for comprehensive or collision claims. However, the deductible usually resets after filing a car accident claim with your own insurance company.

You Have Free Glass Claims

In some states, insurance companies offer a $0 deductible on glass claims meaning the insurer will repair or replace your windshield free of cost following an accident, without the need to pay a deductible.

I’m Injured in a Car Accident That Wasn’t My Fault. Do I Have to Pay Car Insurance Deductible?

Injuries to you or the other driver have nothing to do with deductibles. Insurance companies require a deductible when there is a car accident, and the policyholder wants their vehicle repaired by their own insurance company.

You should consider filing a claim against the at-fault driver if you’re injured. Their liability insurance will pay for your medical bills and other expenses arising from the accident. In such a situation, you do not need to pay a deductible.

You Need a Police Report to Strengthen Your Claim

Deciding whether or not you need to pay your deductible depends on who is at fault, and you need credible sources to help verify and strengthen your claim. A police report is not a final word on who the negligent party is, but it will help bolster your case.

Remember, the other party could lie to their insurers about the events leading to the accident to transfer the blame, and you need documents and evidence to support your claim. Make sure to call the police after an accident.

Avoid Assuming Liability. Work with a Skilled Attorney!

Pursuing a third-party claim against the at-fault driver can be challenging, especially after filing claims with your insurance company. It gives off the impression that you’re admitting fault.

Working with an attorney can assist you in reviewing all available legal options to help you make an informed decision. A skilled attorney getting involved can increase your chances of securing maximum compensation.

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