Car accidents are scary. And on top of all of the immediate concerns, there are many factors afterwards that you need to consider — medical bills, repairs, police reports. Depending on the severity of your car accident and damage, you’re going to want to file a claim with your auto insurance company.
Car insurance offers a lot of different coverages, so how long your claim will take to settle depends on your specific policy, what caused the damages in the first place, and what state you live in. For example, if a tree falls on your car your comprehensive coverage will protect you. If you get into a car accident, your liability coverage will cover damage you are liable for.
However, your comprehensive claim could settle quicker than a liability claim, since a liability claim will likely involve another person and a team of people will need to determine who is at fault and how much the damage will cost for both parties.
How long a car insurance claim takes to settle depends on what state you live in, how severe the damage is, how the damage was caused, who was involved, and the potential extent of injury and medical expenses
Most states have regulations for how long an insurance company can take to settle your claim after it is filed. Many states are required to reach settlement within 30 to 45 days of accepting the claim
Some auto insurance claims take longer than others. For example, a roadside assistance claim will be settled faster than a personal injury claim because there are fewer factors involved and a towing bill is usually cheaper than a medical bill
When should you file a claim?
If you file a claim with your insurance company, there is a chance that your premium will increase. And depending on the type of claim, it may cost you more to file than you’ll get in return. Before deciding to file a claim, you should consider these questions:
Was anyone else involved in the car accident? (If there is another driver or person involved then you should almost always file a claim.)
How much will the repairs cost and how much is your deductible?
What kind of claim are you filing? For example, is your bumper dented or did you damage your neighbor’s property?
Types of car insurance coverage
A car insurance policy is actually made up of a variety of coverage types that protect you from different types of damage. Below are a few common coverage parts that you might see in what’s typically referred to as a “full coverage” auto insurance policy:
|Coverage Type||What It Does|
|Bodily injury liability||The part of your liability coverage that pays for medical bills if you've injured someone in an accident|
|Property damage liability||The other part of liability coverage, covers the cost of property damage you've caused in an accident|
|Personal injury protection||Covers medical expenses for you or your passengers after an accident|
|Uninsured/underinsured motorist||Covers the costs if you're in an accident caused by a driver with little or no car insurance|
|Comprehensive||Covers damage to your car that happens when you're not driving|
|Collision||Covers damage to your car after a car accident, no matter who was at fault|
Some car accidents are cut and dry when it comes to who is at fault. However, this isn’t always the case. Determining the factors that caused the accident can slow down the claim settlement process.
Types of car insurance claims
How long your claim takes to settle will depend on the type of claim you are filing. Some claims might be easier to process than others, because there will be fewer factors or details involved in the claim, so you will reach settlement faster.
Car insurance claims that can take less time to reach settlement
There are claims that are generally quicker to process than others.
Roadside assistance claims: Roadside assistance claims are usually processed quickly. For example, if you need to file a roadside assistance claim to get your car towed, that claim can be processed the same day. Some insurance companies cover towing, so you won’t have to pay out of pocket.
Glass claims: Once you file a claim for glass damage, it is usually settled quickly and oftentimes you will have your glass repaired within the same week.
Car insurance claims that can take more time to reach settlement
Car insurance claims that take more time to settle usually involve more factors than claims that take less time to settle.
Medical bills and personal injury: Personal injury and medical claims are types of claims that take the longest to settle. This is because they involve the most parties: a doctor or hospital, your auto insurance company, your health insurance company, and if there was another person involved then their doctor and auto and health insurance companies as well. If you are trying to determine who caused the injury, then a personal injury lawyer may get involved, too.
Physical damage: How long a physical damage claim can take depends on the extent of the damage. If the cause of the damage is clear, your physical damage claim could be processed quickly. If you need to determine who is at-fault it might take longer. A repair shop will also have to assess how much the repairs will cost, so you should factor how this into the timeframe as well.
Total loss claim: A car is declared a “total loss” when the cost of repairs exceeds a certain percentage of the vehicle's value — meaning your car is totaled. In order to determine this, your car will need to be assessed by a repair team. These claims can take up to a month to settle, because there are so many factors, parties, and personal circumstances involved, like if your car is totaled and you still have an auto loan to pay.
Claim settlement laws based on state
In most states, there are regulations about how long a claim can take to settle. This protects drivers by requiring insurance companies to reach claim settlement within a certain timeframe. However, just like car insurance coverage requirements, these regulations vary from state to state.
So say you get into a car accident and file a personal injury claim, depending on what state you live in, your insurance company will have a set amount of days to confirm receipt of your claim and then a certain amount of days to reach settlement of that claim. For example, your insurer might have 45 days from receipt and acceptance of your claim to reach settlement. That said, some state regulations are a bit more vague — they may be required to reach settlement and pay out a claim within “reasonable time.”
Who is involved in the claims process?
Unlike other insurance products, auto insurance claims can involve multiple insurance companies, claims adjusters, and other parties. 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:
Insurance adjuster from your insurance company
Insurance adjuster from the other person’s insurance company (if you are involved in a car accident)
Doctors, hospitals, health insurance companies (including the other party’s health insurer)
Witnesses and the reporting police officer (depending on the severity of the claim)
Personal injury lawyer