a man on the phone after a car accident

Not At Fault in Car Accident: Who Pays?

Updated January 5, 2019 . AmFam Team

Curious about paying a deductible for an accident that wasn't your fault? Learn about who pays and the subrogation process from American Family Insurance.

Cell phone down, two hands on the wheel and your full attention on what’s ahead — you do everything you can to stay safe on the road. But no matter how safe of a driver you strive to be, you’re still vulnerable to not-at-fault accidents caused by other drivers.

Dealing with a car accident can be stressful and time-consuming — especially when it’s an accident that’s not your fault. That’s why American Family Insurance makes it a priority to help you get things back to normal as quickly and smoothly as possible.

We’ve highlighted some key information about who pays your deductible after an accident that isn’t your fault. We’ll highlight the deductible recovery process, too, so you know exactly how your insurance will work to get you reimbursed.

How Do Car Insurance Deductibles Work?

Let’s start with the basics — what’s a car insurance deductible? A car insurance deductible is the amount of money you agree to pay out of pocket when you file an insurance claim. Once you pay this amount, your insurance company will then step in to help cover the remaining cost for damages (up to your policy limit).

A deductible is commonly required with collision coverage, which is coverage that would protect you in an accident that’s not your fault. You’d also pay a deductible with comprehensive coverage and sometimes with uninsured or underinsured coverage.

Do I Pay My Deductible If I’m Not At Fault?

The short answer? Yes. You can choose to wait until the at-fault driver’s insurance company connects with you and pays for your damages, but that method is rarely swift. There is another option if you want to get the process rolling so you’re back on the road quicker. That’s to file a claim with your insurance company, pay your deductible and have them cover the remaining costs for damages

But it doesn’t seem fair to have to pay for an accident that wasn’t your fault, right? That’s where deductible recovery and subrogation comes into play.

What Is Deductible Recovery?

With deductible recovery, American Family will work through a process called subrogation. Subrogation is the insurance world’s way of saying, “We’re working on getting your deductible back because the accident wasn’t your fault.”

Basically, subrogation is when one insurer (e.g. American Family) receives money from another insurer (e.g. the at-fault driver’s insurance company) so that the not-at-fault driver gets their deductible back.

Here’s how subrogation works in car insurance:

Your insurance company will pay for your damages, minus your deductible. Don’t worry — if the claim is settled and it’s determined you weren’t at fault for the accident, you’ll get your deductible back.

The involved insurance companies determine who’s at fault. Sure, you know the answer to this, but it’s all part of the process. You might be asked for a statement about the accident, so having the police report, pictures and/or other important details will be helpful.

Your insurance company recovers your deductible. After determining the other driver was indeed at fault, your insurance company will work through the subrogation process to recover your deductible. You may need to submit proof that you paid your deductible, which could be a body shop invoice or credit card statement.

How Long Does Deductible Recovery/Subrogation Take?

The deductible recovery process time depends on the circumstances of your accident. After all, each claim is unique. But on average, it can take about six months to recover your deductible. If both sides are cooperative and provide the necessary information, it’ll make everything much smoother. You could get your deductible money back in as quickly as one to two weeks.

No matter the situation, American Family is your advocate. We’re prepared to help you through the process every step of the way — and we’ll work diligently to do whatever we can during the deductible recovery process to help you get reimbursed. Have more questions? Connect with an agent (Opens in a new tab) to learn more.

Tools & Resources

Explore our tools and smart tips.