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Getting into a car accident can be a major headache, even if the damage is minor. Once you file a claim, you might wonder, "How long does it take an insurance company to process a claim?" The short answer is, usually around 30 days. However, it can vary depending on a few other factors.

Car owners often have other questions about insurance claims. Here we'll answer some of the more commonly asked: How long does an insurance claim take? How do insurance companies pay out claims? Is there a way to prevent claim delays?

  • Insurance claims typically take about one month to resolve.
  • The length of time that it takes to resolve a claim depends on the state and the type of claim.
  • Typically, bodily injury claims take longer to settle than property damage claims.
  • In some states, you can wait up to one year or longer to file a claim after a collision.

How long does an insurance claim take?

The car insurance claim process can be resolved in as little as a few weeks, or as long as a few months. However, the insurance claim time frame depends on the insurer, the state, and the type of claim.

Most states protect consumers by encouraging insurance companies to handle car accident claims promptly. Some states even require a specific settlement period, like 30 days. Here are some examples:

  • California - Insurers have 40 days to accept or reject a claim and then 30 days to issue payment once a settlement is agreed upon.
  • North Carolina - Insurers have 30 days to acknowledge a claim and then 10 days after settlement to pay the claim.
  • Texas - Insurers have 30 days to accept or reject a claim and then five days to issue payment once a settlement is agreed upon.

However, the amount of time for the claims process usually depends on the specific claim. For instance, personal injury claims take longer to resolve than property damage claims.

Why do insurance companies take so long to pay out?

There are a variety of reasons for delayed claim payouts. Some of these factors are in your control, but unfortunately, some of them aren't. Here are a few of the biggest reason:

  • Severity of the injuries: If a driver is badly injured in a car accident, expect the settlement to take longer. The driver has to finish treatment in order to determine how much money they can get.
  • Dispute over which driver was responsible: After an accident, it’s not always immediately clear who was responsible. If there is a dispute about each driver’s negligence, it’s going to take the insurance companies longer to settle the claim.
  • Back-and-forth negotiations: In general, settlement negotiations can take a lot of time. There’s usually a good amount of back-and-forth between lawyers, victims, and the car insurance companies.

It's also important to mention that some insurance companies are just slower to pay out claims than others. For example, if you work with a small insurance carrier that only has one adjuster, it could take much longer to receive your payout. Large insurance companies have teams of adjusters who work to resolve claims all day long.

How to prevent delays when filing an insurance claim

Dealing with a delayed claim can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you’re the one waiting for compensation. Below are some ways that you can prevent a delay when filing a claim:

  • Provide evidence upfront: After the accident, take lots of photos of the damage, write down when and where the accident took place, and a description of what happened. That way, the insurance company won’t have to track down this information in the future.
  • Research the laws in your state: As mentioned, some states require insurance companies to settle claims within a certain time period. Know the laws in your state, and if the insurance company is taking too long, let them know or hire a lawyer to back you up. 
  • Be proactive: The truth is, settling claims can take time. If you feel like your insurer is dragging their feet, don’t be afraid to reach out proactively and get an update. Don’t wait for them to contact you.

If you find yourself waiting months for a claim to get resolved, there are a few things you can do to speed up the process. Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep a log of every conversation you have with the insurer, including the date and next steps.
  • Respond to requests and complete paperwork as soon as possible to keep things moving forward.
  • Digitize copies of accident reports and damage evidence in case you need to share them around.
  • Never lie to your insurance company — It will eventually come the light, and it will slow down the process significantly.

Ultimately, one of the best ways to avoid claim delays is to work with a reliable insurance company.

tip iconTIP"It's important to choose a reputable insurance provider to avoid issues like delayed claims," says Lauren Mckenzie, a licensed insurance broker at LearnandServe.org, an affiliate of A Plus Insurance.

"Just because a company may be the cheapest, doesn't mean it has the best ratings when it comes to claim processing. Pay close attention to reviews and third-party ratings to get a good sense of a company's customer satisfaction and claim satisfaction before you buy a policy," she says.

What to do if your insurance claim is taking a long time

If your insurance company is taking a long time to process a claim, you can take matters into your own hands. Reach out to the adjuster who is overseeing your claim and ask for an update on where they are in the process -- and what you can do to expedite things.

tip iconTIP"The best thing you can do to speed up the claim process is to make sure you are cooperating," Mckenzie says. "In many cases, insurance adjusters need additional information from you and other drivers involved. And if someone can't be reached, it slows the claims process down."

If your state specifies a time limit in which insurers must resolve claims, make a note of the deadline. If the date passes, notify your insurance company right away. Depending on your state's laws, you might have grounds for a lawsuit if the claim doesn't get resolved promptly.

How to file a car insurance claim

Filing a claim should ideally start at the scene of the accident. After you assess the situation and make sure all drivers involved are OK, here are the steps you should take:

1. Call the police: Calling the police after an accident is a smart idea, even if there are no injuries. An officer can investigate the collision and take statements, which can expedite the claim process.

2. Exchange information with other drivers: Get contact information and insurance details from the other drivers involved, including their insurance company and policy number.

3. Gather evidence of the damage: Take photos of the damage to both vehicles and the accident scene. Insurers can use this information to figure out who’s to blame.

4. Call your car insurance company: If you were at fault, contact your insurance company’s claim department. You’ll be given paperwork to complete, which is where you’ll attach the photo evidence and police report. Your insurance company will contact the other driver’s insurer, and the two will handle the claim.

If you did not cause the accident, you’ll want to follow the steps above and file a claim with the responsible party’s insurance company. It’s also a good idea to alert your insurance company to keep them in the loop even if a claim won't be filed through them.

When not to file an auto insurance claim

If you have car insurance, you should file a claim whenever your car gets damaged, right? Well, not exactly.

Before you report a claim, you’ll want to think about:

  • The amount of damage
  • Your deductible
  • How a claim will impact your rate
  • Whether anyone else was involved in the accident

If your car suffered damage that was less than or similar to your deductible amount, it’s probably best for you to handle the repairs yourself. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay your deductible and your insurance company could raise your rate. Insurers increase car insurance premiums between 26% and 32%, on average, after an accident. That's between $360 to $460 extra premium a year, on average.

Also, you may not want to file a claim if the only vehicle involved is yours, depending on the severity of the damage.

How do insurance companies pay out claims?

If you cause the accident, your property damage coverage will pay for the other driver’s vehicle repairs and your bodily injury coverage will pay for their accident-related expenses if they were injured. The only exception is in no-fault states, where a driver’s personal injury protection (PIP) coverage pays for their injuries.

If you have a full coverage policy with collision coverage, your insurance company will pay an insurance settlement for your vehicle’s repairs, up to your car's actual cash value. You will also have to pay your collision deductible.

So, who gets the money? If another driver is to blame and that driver’s insurance is paying for repairs, the insurer usually pays the insurance settlement to you or the body shop directly. However, if you have a lease or finance your car, the insurer will likely make the claim check out to you and the leaseholder or lienholder.

When will car insurance not pay out?

Just because you think a loss is covered, doesn't mean that you are automatically entitled to a payout. There are a number of situations where your car insurance company will not give you any money after a claim.

"All claims are subject to investigation. For example, if the incident in question happened before you got car insurance, it will get denied because your policy does not cover you retroactively, " Mckenzie says.

Claims also can get denied if the insurance adjuster does not have sufficient proof of what happened and who was at fault.

tip iconTIP"If you get into an accident and don't call the police, there's no official report to verify the details of the incident. If the claim adjuster can't determine what happened and who was liable using other evidence, your claim might get denied, " Mckenzie says.

In addition, your insurance company may not pay a claim if it finds out that you lied on your application. For instance, if you fail to disclose previous traffic violations, or lie about your age to get a cheaper rate, your insurance company may deny your claim. Lying on your car insurance application is considered fraud, and you can face additional consequences if you get caught.

Is there a time limit to file an insurance claim?

You only have a certain amount of time to file a car insurance claim after the incident occurs. This is called the statute of limitations and it's different in every state. In most states, the insurance-claim time limit is between two and four years from the date of the loss. You are allowed to file claims after the statute of limitations ends, but the insurance company is not required to provide a payout.

How long after an accident can you file an insurance claim?

The length of time you have to file a claim after a crash varies based on your state and the type of claim.

In many states, the statute of limitations is between two and four years. Check with your state’s insurance department to see how long you have to file.

Frequently asked questions

What if the insurance company doesn’t pay what they promised?

In this case, you have the right to know why your claim payout was lowered or denied. If you believe that you deserve a higher payout, your best option is to consult a lawyer who can talk to the insurer on your behalf. In some states, you may be able to take your insurer to small claims court to get the money you’re entitled to.

What is insurance bad faith?

An insurance bad faith claim is when your insurance company deliberately does something to hurt your chances of receiving a fair payout. Examples include denying claims, underpaying claims, taking a long time to process a claim or misrepresenting your policy so you get a lower payout. If you suspect insurance bad faith, address the issue with your insurance company and if that does not resolve the issue, be prepared to consult an attorney.

Can you sue an insurance company for taking too long with your claim?

You are allowed to sue your insurance company for taking too long to resolve a claim. But if your state doesn’t have laws around the length of time an insurer has to resolve a claim, you probably don’t have grounds for a lawsuit.

How soon can you file a claim after getting insurance?

There's no waiting period for filing a claim with your car insurance company. If you purchase an insurance policy on Monday and you get into an accident on Tuesday, you are allowed to file a claim with no restrictions. As long as the incident occurs after your policy's effective time and date, you are covered.

When does an insurance company need to provide a payout?

Your insurance policy is essentially a contract between you and your insurer. Therefore, your insurance company is obligated to provide a payout when you experience a loss that is covered under the terms of the policy.

However, keep in mind that certain circumstances can prevent you from getting the money. For example, if you get into an accident and, during the investigation, the insurance adjuster discovers that you lied on your application. In such a case your claim could get denied, even though the loss was technically covered based on the policy agreement.

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