The aftermath of a car accident is full of stress, pain, and financial strain. While accident victims are facing potentially life-threatening or permanent injuries, they must also consider property damage and how they’ll cover repairs. While car insurance is required in New York, some drivers must still pay out-of-pocket expenses after an accident, including insurance deductibles.

What is an Insurance Deductible?

Car insurance companies often require the drivers they insure to pay a certain amount of money when they file an insurance claim. This is known as a deductible, and insurers won’t cover the costs of necessary repairs until that amount is paid. Deductibles are a regular part of insurance policies like collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, and uninsured/underinsured coverage.

A deductible should not be confused with premiums because they are substantially different parts of an insurance policy. Your car insurance premium is what you pay to maintain your coverage. Some drivers pay this monthly, but it can also be paid every six months or once per year. You pay this amount whether you file a claim or not. Deductibles, however, are only paid after an accident or other damage to your vehicle when you make a claim with your insurance company.

These two insurance elements often have an inverse relationship. Policies with higher premiums usually have lower deductibles, and vice versa. Some people prefer to pay more for their premiums to avoid a large lump sum deductible after an accident. Other drivers find that paying a higher deductible if an accident occurs is preferable so they can save money on monthly or annual premiums. Either way, both of these costs come out of your pocket.

Is a Deductible Required if You’re Not at Fault?

Even the most careful, skilled driver can be in an accident if they are at the wrong place at the wrong time. If you find yourself in an accident due to another driver’s negligence or recklessness, you may be able to recover the insurance deductible. Insurers are for-profit companies, meaning their primary goal is to make money. These companies are notorious for being difficult to work with and creating hurdles for injured accident victims to jump through in an attempt to receive compensation.

Because insurance companies often try to pay as little as possible for accident claims, some people find the hassle too much to deal with in an already challenging time. This can be especially true when you were not at fault for the accident. Why should you have to pay for something you didn’t cause? In most cases, unfortunately, you will end up covering the cost of the deductible yourself. The good news is that you may be able to recover the car insurance deductible if you’re found not to be at fault for the accident.

Do I Get My Deductible Back After an Accident?

In general, a deductible is not something that is refundable. It is the amount of money you agreed to pay in your car insurance contract if accident repairs were needed. However, when your property damage was caused by someone else, you may be able to recover the cost of that deductible.

Insurance companies can use a process called subrogation to recover the deductible from the negligent driver’s insurer. Subrogation does not prevent you from paying for the deductible upfront, but it can help you be repaid for that cost. The process generally works like this:

  • You pay your insurance deductible
  • The insurance companies perform an investigation to identify the at-fault driver
  • Your insurer recovers the cost of your deductible from the other person’s insurance company

The Car Insurance Claims Process

At some point during this process, you will likely be required to provide proof that you paid the deductible. You may also be asked for supporting evidence during the investigation phase. You must be prepared with documentation that shows the other driver was at fault.

Some examples of the types of evidence and documents you may want to gather include the following:

  • Photos or video of the crash scene
  • Witness statements and contact information
  • Police reports

Regardless of the severity of an accident, it is a good idea to report the crash to the police. This creates a trail of evidence and also provides you with access to any necessary medical attention. Keep in mind that not all injuries are immediately obvious; some can take hours or even days to present symptoms. Even if you believe you are not injured and do not need medical treatment, you should have a doctor perform an evaluation to be certain. Plus, medical records provide useful information as your car insurance claim is processed and a compensation amount is determined.

A Timeline for Recovering Your Deductible

There is no set or guaranteed timeframe for this process. Each accident and injury claim is unique, which makes estimating timelines difficult. On average, it takes the insurance company around six months to pay back a deductible. It may take much longer if determining fault is especially complicated in a certain accident or if one of the involved parties is uncooperative. Alternatively, it could take only a few weeks to receive a refund of your deductible if the case is simple and everyone is cooperating with the investigation.

Working with a car accident attorney at Seitelman Law Offices can help streamline this process. We have decades of experience navigating complex car insurance claims and securing compensation for our clients. Call us for a free consultation to discuss your case.