Yours or Theirs: Whose Auto Insurance Provider to Use After a Car Accident

Even if a wreck wasn't your fault, you can still use your insurance. Just know there’s no guarantee you’ll get your deductible back.
Aubrey Cohen
By Aubrey Cohen 

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Let’s say you've been in an accident that was the other driver’s fault. You want to get all the claims money to which you’re entitled, but you may feel unsure how to proceed. First, you’ll need to figure out whose auto insurance provider to use when you file a claim.

Here’s what you need to know to decide.

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Using your auto insurance provider

The details: If you have collision coverage, you can make a claim on your own auto insurance policy after an accident. Your insurer will pay for your car repairs, minus any deductible.

Then your company is likely to ask the other driver’s insurer to reimburse them for your claim. Once the other company confirms that its policyholder was at fault, it sends payment to your company, which then refunds your deductible. The process is called subrogation, and takes about six months, according to Geico. Your policy may also waive your deductible for repairs after an accident that’s not your fault.

Subrogation works similarly with injury claims, assuming you have personal injury protection, known as PIP, or medical payments coverage — but only up to the limit of that coverage. And if you live in a no-fault state, you must use your own PIP coverage for injuries to you and your passengers, although you can still sue for severe injuries. The 12 no-fault states are Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Utah (plus Puerto Rico).

The pros: You may feel more confident in the service your insurer provides than the service provided by the other driver’s company. The claims process may also be faster because your company doesn’t have to determine fault before sending your check. If you have rental reimbursement on your policy, you can get a rental car right away.

Your insurance company shouldn’t raise your rates after a claim related to an accident that wasn’t your fault.

The cons: You’ll be out your deductible money, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get it back.

Using the other driver’s auto insurance provider

The details: If you decide to make a claim on the other driver’s insurance, their company will investigate to confirm that its driver was at fault. After that, it will send an adjuster to estimate your damage or ask you to get an estimate from a repair shop, and then pay for your repairs and a rental car until yours is ready. The other driver’s insurer will also cover your medical bills, except in no-fault states.

Whether you’re seeking help with repairs or medical bills, the other driver’s insurer will only pay up to the limits of the driver’s liability coverage.

The pros: You don’t have to pay your deductible and wait for reimbursement. And if you don’t have collision coverage, using the other driver’s insurer is the only way to get your damage covered.

The cons: If the person who hit your car doesn’t have liability coverage, or has limits that don’t cover your medical expenses, you may end up filing a claim with your insurer anyway. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage would pay for treatment of your injuries in this situation, up to your own UM limits. If the other driver’s insurance won’t pay enough to cover your car repairs, you can tap into your collision coverage or uninsured motorist property damage coverage, which could be subject to a deductible.

Call your auto insurance provider no matter what

Even if you opt to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company, it’s a good idea to let your insurer know about an accident. That makes it easier to change your mind and work through your company if there are problems, such as a dispute over the extent of damages or injuries.

If you’re thinking about changing your insurer, try NerdWallet’s car insurance estimator tool to compare rates.

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