Car insurance claims can take days, weeks, or even over a month to settle. The time it takes to resolve your claim will depend on things like how severe the damage was, whether it’s clear who was responsible, and how quickly you can provide all the necessary information. Some states have laws that require insurance companies to settle claims within a certain amount of time.
The time it takes your car insurance claim to settle also depends on the type of claim you make. For example, claims for property damage or for roadside assistance usually take less time than injury claims involving multiple drivers.
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How long does an insurance claim take?
States often limit the amount of time insurance companies can take deciding on and paying out a claim. States have different guidelines, but often insurance companies must decide whether or not to accept a claim in about 30 days and pay it out shortly after that.
But while states have rules about the time claims can take, things can actually get more complicated (and take longer) when insurance companies need extra time to investigate a claim. Claims might take longer if they involve:
An accident where fault isn’t clear
Multiple drivers and vehicles
Serious injuries or long hospital stays
Significant property damage
A company with a smaller claims handling department
Disputes about settlement amounts
For example, a claim you make when your car battery dies and you have to call a tow or if your window was smashed during a car break-in is pretty straightforward. That type of claim moves more quickly than one involving multiple drivers, serious injuries, and a lot of back-and-forth between parties.
How long do insurance claims take to pay out?
States also have rules that limit how long insurance companies can take to send you a payment after approving a claim. Generally, insurance claim payouts take less time than the claim itself.
After a settlement is reached, insurance companies usually have to send you the payout in as little as a few days. Some states require companies to pay out a claim “immediately” or “promptly” after a decision, or no more than 30 days afterwards.
Do insurance companies have claim time limits?
Yes, many states have rules that set time limits for how quickly car insurance companies must rule on and then pay out claims.
Rules vary by state but in some states, insurance companies have between 15 and 40 days to decide whether to accept or deny a claim, and then between 5 and 30 days to pay out a claim after a decision.
But states also give providers a few weeks of leeway in case they need more time on a claim. But if this happens, states often require an insurance company to let you know and explain the hold-up.
If your claim does end up being delayed, it could be because of the severity of the accident that led to the claim, the need for more investigation, high claim volume at the insurance company, or other factors that are slowing down the process.
Why do some claims take longer?
The more serious the accident or incident that led up to the claim, the longer the claim (and the payout) will take. Companies can process some claims more quickly than others when there are fewer details and people involved in the claim.
Some types of claims take longer to settle and pay out than others, too. This is because the level of damage, cost or injuries and repairs, and number of involved drivers is often naturally higher with certain types of claims.
Your participation can also affect how quickly you’ll get paid for a car insurance claim. If your claims adjuster asks you for documents like a police report or your car’s title and you take days to get it to them, it will slow the process down.
Car insurance claims that can take less time to reach settlement
Some claims are easier for companies to process, and therefore take less time to settle and pay out. Claims for roadside assistance and glass damage usually involve straightforward damage and expenses, and generally take less time to process than others.
Car insurance claims that can take more time to reach settlement
On the other hand, claims take longer when there are more people involved in investigating the incident, evaluating costs, and repairing the damage or assessing injuries.
That’s why these types of car insurance claims will likely take longer to settle:
Medical bills and personal injury:Personal injury and medical claims take a while to resolve because insurance companies have to keep in touch with lots of people, including you, doctors and hospital staff, and your health insurance company. The list gets longer if another injured driver or passenger is involved.
Physical damage: A physical damage claim can take longer if the damage is serious and it’s not clear who’s responsible. A repair shop will also have to figure out the cost of repairs and could make the claim time longer.
Total loss claim: It takes a while for total-loss claims to settle since there are usually so many factors involved. After it’s totaled, your car has to be inspected and declared a total loss, which could involve lots of paperwork and back-and-forths between multiple groups.
Who is normally involved in the claims process?
Auto insurance claims can involve a whole cast of other people and groups besides you, the other driver, and both insurance companies. For example, if you get into a car accident or your car is damaged, some people who may be involved in the claims process include:
The insurance adjuster from your insurance company
The insurance adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company
Doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies
Any witnesses and the reporting police officers
A personal injury lawyer
How to avoid long wait times after an insurance claim
One way to avoid long waits after a claim is speeding up communication between you, the insurance company, and the company’s adjuster. You can smooth out potential problems and reduce wait times after filing a claim include if you:
Organize your evidence: Keep any notes on accident, photos you took, testimony you gave, and past communications with your insurance company together. This will make it quicker to verify information if someone asks you for it.
Respond quickly to requests: Make sure you keep an eye on your phone or email to answer questions and provide information to your insurance company as soon as you can.
Keep things moving: If your claim is taking a while and you haven’t heard anything from your insurance company, check in and get an update. Your state may even require the company to give you an explanation if things are moving too slowly.
Many car insurance companies make it easy to track ongoing claims online or through a mobile app. If you’re not sure what stage your claim is in, check there first.
One of the best ways to make a future claims process as easy and fast as possible is by researching customer service reputations when you’re shopping for a car insurance company. You might even decide that it’s worth paying slightly more for better service.
Can you sue an insurance company for taking too long?
You can sue your insurance company if it takes your insurance claim too long to settle. For example, you might have grounds for a lawsuit if your company doesn’t rule on a claim within your state’s timeframe.
But if your company is taking too long with a claim, you can also contact your state’s insurance office and file a complaint. Your state’s insurance office might be able to help resolve any disputes you’re having with your company, and could help push the claims process forward once it’s stalled.
When should you file a claim?
You should file a claim any time you’re in an accident with another driver. Even if both parties seem fine at the time and you promise to settle things yourselves, you or they might have injuries that aren’t immediately clear, or they could discover damage later on.
In order to protect yourself, you should always exchange your insurance information at the scene of an accident and notify your car insurance company immediately.
But things can get a little more complicated if you’re the only driver involved, like if you back into a hydrant and damage your bumper or you knock your side mirror off while parking. Damage claims like that are covered as long as you have full coverage, but it’s not always worth it to file a claim.
Before deciding to file a claim for damage you caused to your own car, you should consider these questions:
Can you pay for the damage yourself?
How much are the repairs compared to your policy’s deductible?
Could you afford it if your car insurance rates get more expensive?
Is the damage cosmetic or will it affect your car’s ability to run?
You should still tell your insurance company that your car was damaged even if you don’t make a claim. If your car is damaged and you don’t tell your provider, a future claim that you make could be denied if past damage contributes to a later accident.
How long after an accident can you file a claim?
You should file claims as soon as you can after you’re involved in an accident. Your insurance agreement often makes it clear that you have to promptly report any accident that you’re involved in to your provider, but you’ll usually have longer to make a claim.
It’s common for most insurance companies to require that you make a claim within a time period of two to three years depending on your coverage. Your state may have an even longer window of time in which you can make a claim.
How soon can you file a claim after getting auto insurance?
You don’t have to wait to file a claim after you get a new policy or renew your old one. If you’re in an accident the same day that your coverage begins and you need to make a claim, you can. Your rates won’t change until it’s time to renew.