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How long does a car insurance claim take to settle?

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

    Article Highlights

    Car accidents can be jarring and confusing but paying for car insurance means that filing a claim afterward shouldn’t be. Learning when to file a claim, what type of claim to file and what factors affect the settlement timeline can make the process less stressful and more efficient. The first step is to know when it makes sense to file a claim and which car insurance policy types provide the appropriate coverage.

    When should you file a claim?

    Car insurance is designed to help alleviate the financial burden of an accident. If you’ve been in a car accident, consider the following factors to decide if you should file a claim:

    • How extensive was the incident? If other vehicles, pedestrians or property of any sort were involved, then a claim will likely be warranted. However, suppose the incident is between yourself and your car, with no damages sustained by others or their property. In that case, you have a bit more leeway.
    • Was anyone injured? If anyone was injured in the accident, then a claim should likely be filed. One of the critical reasons for mandatory liability insurance is to provide coverage when a person is injured by a vehicular accident.
    • Who was at fault? Whether you are at fault or the other driver is, you’ll still want to consider filing an insurance claim. The insurance company can help ensure that you receive fair compensation if another driver was at fault for your damages. If you are at fault, your insurance may help pay for the damages you caused.
    • How much will the incident cost? Minor damages, like paint scratches and dented bumpers, are sometimes dealt with out of pocket. Suppose no injuries are sustained, and the property damages are minimal. In that case, you may want to consider handling the damages out of your own pocket. This requires agreement between all the involved parties, however, and is discouraged by some insurers.
    • What is your deductible? If no other parties are involved and the only damage in a scenario is to your own car, you’ll want to consider your deductible before you file a claim for the damages. When the cost of repairs is lower than your deductible, it will likely be cheaper to pay out of pocket.

    Types of car insurance coverage

    CoverageTypically required by state?Covers:Excludes:
    Bodily injury liabilityYesPays for injuries sustained by othersInjuries sustained by you
    Property damage liabilityYesPays for damages to other’s propertyDamage to your own property
    CollisionNoPays for damages your vehicle from collisionsDamages to other people’s property and damages to your car caused by weather, theft, vandalism, fire or hitting an animal
    ComprehensiveNoPays for damages to your vehicle caused by weather, theft, vandalism, fire or hitting an animalDamages to other people’s property and damages to your car caused by collisions
    Uninsured motoristNoPays for damages or injuries your vehicle or you sustain if an uninsured driver causes the incident Damages and injuries to properties and people beyond your own car and its passengers
    TowingNoPays for the cost of towing your vehicleThe cost of towing another vehicle
    Personal injury protectionNoPays for the medical expenses of injuries that you or your passengers sustain in an accidentMedical expenses of those outside of your vehicle

    Types of car insurance claims

    How long does an auto insurance claim take to settle? The type of claim being filed can play a significant role in that length of time. Depending on the circumstances and the coverage, different types of auto insurance claims can be filed. Each of these claim types undergoes a slightly different process and, as a result, they can vary in how long they take. Some claims are easier to assess and settle than others. In general, the more complicated the incident, the lengthier the claims process.

    Medical claims and total loss claims generally take the longest. Inversely, glass replacement and roadside assistance claims often take the least amount of time. The first two tend to deal with more significant sums of money and often involve more people and institutions. This combination makes the determination of the claim more challenging and financially riskier for the insurer.

    Claims that take less time to reach settlement

    • Glass replacement 
    • Roadside assistance

    Claims that take more time to reach settlement

    • Medical claims
    • Physical damage claims
    • Total loss claims

    Factors that delay a claim settlement

    While each claim is a unique situation, in general there are things that can slow down the process, including:

    • Errors and miscommunication: Providing inaccurate or false information can slow down the claims process and add further complications.
    • Customer satisfaction: Customers can dispute a claim or the work paid for by a claim. While both may be necessary at times, each will add more time to the overall process.
    • Natural disaster: Claims filed in response to damages sustained by natural disasters can take significantly longer to process. This is partly due to the overall complexity of these situations. Natural disasters lead to large numbers of claims being filed in a short time, sometimes overwhelming insurance teams.

    How to speed up claim settlements

    Claims take time to settle, but there are things you can do to speed up the process:

    • Be prompt with filing: The sooner the insurer has the claim, the quicker they can begin processing it.
    • Be transparent: Accuracy and honesty help speed up the process by reducing the extra time of investigation and correction.
    • Provide detailed information: The more detail you provide of the incident, the easier it may be for the insurance company to settle your claim.
    • Be available for questions and clarifications: Being available to provide additional answers or information can help keep the process moving quickly and efficiently.

     Claim settlement laws based on state

    Each state has laws about how quickly a claim must be filed and how much time the insurance company has to decide on that claim. So how long does an insurance company have to settle a claim? In general, state laws dictate that insurance companies must settle within roughly a month of accepting a claim. Many of these states add another 15 days on the front end, allowing insurance companies that amount of time to acknowledge the claim before the settlement clock starts ticking.

    However, some states, like North Carolina, merely stipulate that insurance companies must settle claims “reasonably promptly” without providing specific guidelines. Many of the best car insurance companies seek to settle claims before they reach these deadlines.

    Who is involved in the claims process?

    Claims involve a number of different parties, including:

    • Drivers involved in the incident
    • Insurance adjusters from the involved companies
    • Auto mechanics
    • Health care facilities and staff
    • Lawyers, if there are disputes or lawsuits

    The takeaway

    • The amount of time it takes to settle a car insurance claim depends on several factors.
    • Types of claims are one of the most significant of these factors.
    • Claims related to more significant injury or property damage take longer.
    • Prompt, transparent filing can help claims settle quicker.

    How long does an insurance claim take to settle? It varies, but generally it should take less than 45 days once the company receives the claim. With some preparation and attentiveness, though, you can help speed this process up, or at least avoid slowing it down.  Prompt action, clear and honest documentation, and ongoing communication are some of the best tips for a speedy claims process.

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