How Long Does an Insurance Claim Take?

Two drivers exchanging insurance details
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Filing a car insurance claim can be a daunting task. You might be especially uneasy if it's your first claim and you don't know what to expect. A functioning car is a necessity for most of us, so it's essential to get your vehicle back in good repair as soon as possible. Whether your car is repaired quickly also plays a significant role in whether you are satisfied with your insurance carrier. So, how long should a car insurance claim take?

It Takes a Team

When it comes to how long an insurance claim takes, it might be longer than you think. This is because insurance claims aren't dependent on just one person. The process involves a team. You need to be available to answer questions. The claims adjusters need to do their job. The body shop needs to be available to work with both you and the claims adjuster. If one of the players isn't cooperating, the entire process can get delayed. Without proper teamwork, a claim can get dragged out.

When to File and When Not To

Before you worry about filing a claim, first determine if you should do so in the first place. If anyone was injured or if it's unclear whose fault the damage was, you should absolutely file an insurance claim. Some insurance policies also stipulate that you must notify them of potential claims.

However, if it's a single-vehicle accident involving you and your car, you should get a repair estimate before you file your claim or it could cost you in the long run. If the cost of the repair is less than your deductible, it may be easier to pay out of pocket than to file a claim. Additionally, some policies raise the rates for filing a claim, so make sure you know the specifics of your policy.

What You Should Do

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In the event you need to file a claim, take these prudent steps to protect yourself:

  • Gather your evidence: Take photos of your vehicle, any injuries, and the scene of the accident. Head to a physician for a physical evaluation if you were injured. This evidence will help ensure no one tries to distort the facts of the incident.
  • Know the time limit: Different states and policies have different deadlines for filing a claim after an accident or incident. Know yours and make sure you file before the deadline.
  • File a police report: If another driver is involved, file a police report. If you don't, the other party might try to pin the blame onto you.
  • Don't admit guilt: Let the insurance company and police decide who is responsible. Your insurance company's representatives will act as your advocate, so let them do their job.

Know What Kind of Claim You Are Filing

The type of claim also impacts how long it takes for your claim to settle. Here's what to expect for the most common types of claims.

  • Roadside assistance claim: Many insurance carriers make towing claims easy to file. Some will take care of the claim without having you pay anything out of pocket. If you do need to be reimbursed, it can take two weeks or more to get a check in the mail once you turn in your receipt.
  • Glass claim: Glass claims can also be handled quickly. Once the claim is filed, you can probably get scheduled for repair with a glass company the same day or within the week. If you require original equipment manufacturer (OEM) glass, it can take a little longer for the glass company to order and receive the glass. The actual insurance claim should be handled quickly, though.
  • Physical damage: The time it takes to repair other physical damage to your vehicle depends on the complexity of the claim filed. It is standard to receive your first contact with the insurance adjuster within one to three days of filing the claim. If an adjuster needs to look at the damage, it can take a couple more days. Using an insurance-carrier-approved body shop can speed up the process. Expect a cut-and-dry physical damage claim to take one to two weeks to get finalized. This includes coordinating with a body shop and getting scheduled for repairs. If your car is drivable, you can drive it until the date of repair.
  • Total loss claim: Agreeing on a payout amount can sometimes be difficult. A lot of paperwork is involved in a total loss claim. Getting the proper signatures in all the right places can also take time. It would not be shocking to see a total loss claim take 30 days or more to finalize. States typically have limits as to how long an insurance company can take to resolve a claim.
  • Medical claim: Injury claims usually take the longest to process. Once you fill out the initial paperwork, it should be out of your hands. The hospital and doctor's office should coordinate directly with your car insurance personal injury claims adjuster. If your health insurer paid the claim first, they'll typically file their own claim with the car insurance company of the at-fault driver to seek reimbursement.

Common Factors That Delay a Claim

In a perfect world, everything would go smoothly, and your claim would be paid swiftly. Of course, that's sometimes not the case. Here are some common reasons claims are delayed.

  • Poor communication: Both you and the claims adjuster need to be available. Not answering the phone is a sure-fire way to delay a claim. It's a great idea to verify all of your contact information at the time of filing a claim. Double-check the mailing address, email address, and phone number on file.
  • Misunderstandings about coverage: Did you think you had OEM coverage, but your policy says you don't? Coverage discrepancies can extend the claims process.
  • Dissatisfaction with the repair: Don't like the paint job on your repair? Does something not seem right? Rushing a repair to get your car back is not a good idea. If you aren't happy with your repair, it's best to point it out immediately to get it resolved.
  • Natural disaster claim: Did a hail storm just come through the area? Is everyone dealing with the aftermath of a flood? Natural disaster claims often take longer because the insurance company and the auto repair service providers are both going to be backed up.
  • Short on cash: You can't get your car insurance claim handled quickly when you don't have the cash to cover the deductible. Deductibles need to be paid at the time of repair. Plan on holding off on the repairs if you don't have the cash to cover your deductible.

Lots of problems can occur during the claims process. If major problems arise, talk with your insurance agent, if you have one. Agents often don't deal directly with a claim, but they are a great resource if there is a problem. An agent can contact your claim representative or even the body shop on your behalf to help ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Choosing a reputable insurance company with excellent ratings can help ensure you have a smooth claims process.

What to Do if It Is Taking Too Long

Sometimes, no matter what you do, the claims process takes longer than you would like. The best thing you can do is have a backup plan. Here are a couple of options.

  • Get a rental car: It may not be ideal, but sometimes you have to get a rental car so you can get to work and pick up the kids from school. Many insurers will cover the cost of a rental car after an accident, but check the terms of your policy to find out for certain.
  • Borrow a car: The most cost-effective option is to borrow a friend or family member's car. Their insurance coverage would be automatically extended to you, but remember that their deductibles will apply if you damage the vehicle. Paying for the deductible would be the right thing to do if a loss occurs while you are borrowing their vehicle.

Article Sources

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