Question: Can an insurance company charge me a deductible twice to fix my car? I had two different accidents about a month apart. I have a $1,000 deductible, so I chose not to repair my truck after the first minor accident (damages of $1,570). The second was major ($5,370 in damages). The adjuster says there are two claims and I need to pay a total of $2,000 to get everything repaired. Is that really possible?
Answer: Yes, you’ll have to pay two collision coverage deductibles of $1,000 each. You were in two separate accidents, and you're getting the damage from both repaired.
Unlike health insurance, where you might pay a single annual deductible, auto insurance coverage is per incident. That is, if you had hit and damaged two other vehicles in these accidents, your liability insurance would pay for the repairs in both cases -- even if the total of both added together exceeds the coverage limits spelled out in your policy.
The physical damage coverages of collision and comprehensive, which repair your car after an accident or incident, work the same way. You're covered every time a covered loss occurs, but you will owe a deductible each time.
Your situation is a textbook example of why choosing the right deductible amount when starting a policy is important. You can save money by choosing a higher amount, but you still need to be able to pay it out of pocket if you have repairs to be done. (See "Will higher deductibles save you money?")
When deciding on a deductible amount, you need to consider what would happen if you were unfortunate enough to have multiple claims within a short period of time; could you afford to come up with the thousands of dollars needed to get your car repaired?
Deductibles are paid to the repair shop, not to the insurance company, so if you can’t afford the double whammy of two deductibles totaling $2,000 all at once, talk to the repair shop to see if a payment plan is available. If you find that you can only afford $1,000 now and the mechanic won’t work with you, then you may see if you can hold off on repairing the minor damage until you can come up with the cash.
If you put off repairing the minor damages, then you’ll need to find out how long you have to make the claim since there are time limits. You’ll also want to do what’s necessary to prevent further damage from occurring to that area of the car (such as rust or interior mildew) because those secondary issues wouldn’t be covered by insurance.
If your truck ends up being totaled, you'd owe just one deductible, but the insurance company would deduct the first accident's unrepaired damage from the actual cash value of the vehicle when they wrote you a check.
Having two accidents within such a short period of time is likely to cause your rates to rise, or for your policy not to be renewed, so it’ll be imperative that you shop around and compare car insurance rates. Comparison shopping can save you hundreds, if not thousands, by finding a car insurance company that has the best rates for your situation.