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How long does an auto insurance claim take to go through?

Here's what you need to know...
  • There are many factors that go into the claims process and can affect how long it takes for the claim to be settled
  • Once you file a claim, an adjuster will be assigned within 72 hours
  • Appraisals can take a couple more days or longer depending on whether or not you agree with the appraisal
  • The length of time it takes for your vehicle to be repaired depends on the amount of damage it received

When you file a claim for damage to your vehicle, it is only natural to hope that the claim will go through quickly.

After all, during the investigation period, you must wait for a fault determination so that you can proceed and have the repairs made to your car without having to fork out a payment for your deductible.

Unfortunately, some claims can take a longer than others to be investigated and then settled. Whether or not your claim is processed quickly depends upon:

  • the incident
  • the severity of damages
  • how much information you were able to provide when filing

The worst thing you can do is wait until you need to file a claim to learn about the process.

Since you buy insurance to protect you and help you recover from losses, knowing what the claims adjuster does and factors that can delay the file from being closed are crucial.

Start comparing car insurance rates now by using our FREE tool above! If you want to avoid the stress and the headaches that come with the unknown, read this guide to car insurance claims and you will learn what you can expect.

How the Claims Process Works

Insurance claims binder

You really cannot grasp how long it will take to process a claim and close the claim file until you learn how the claims process works.

There are multiple steps that you must take from the moment you pick up the phone to speak with your agent until you receive a claims disbursement check.

Some steps are skipped in minor damage-only claims and others are more time-consuming when the client is not happy with what they are offered. Here are the various steps that are taken when a policyholder files a claim.

Step 1: Report the Incident As Soon As Possible

Businessman Making Phone Call After Traffic Accident

You may not be able to report your claim from the scene of the accident, but you will need to call and file the claim as soon as physically possible.

Your policy states that it is your duty as a customer to notify your insurer of a potential claim in a reasonable amount of time. Failing to do this could result in a claims denial because you did not follow the rules of the policy.

When you file a claim, you will be directed to speak with a claims representative. This professional will ask you for the date, time, location, and other details about the accident.

They will then assign a claims adjuster to your file and contact any third-party involved for their statement. The file will be directed to an adjuster for review within seventy-two hours.

Step 2: Provide the Documents, Photos, and Forms Requested

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Many times, your claims adjuster will require additional information. They may ask for photos of the scene, a police report, medical bills, signed forms, or other documents so that they can proceed with their investigations.

Providing the information is very important when you are trying to prove that you are not at fault.

When you arm your agent with the information that they need, you can reduce the amount of time a claim takes to process. This steps can take a short amount of time if you are prepared and you forward the documents without delay.

Step 3: Investigating the Claim for Fault Determination

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After reviewing the coverage on your policy, the adjuster will start the investigations process.

They will do several things:

  • gather evidence that you submit
  • order a field representative to assess the damage to your vehicle
  • inspect the third-party car (if applicable)
  • interview all parties involved and witnesses listed

The adjusters of each party involved will communicate back and forth and contact their own insureds when they need answers to questions that come up.

This process can be completed quickly, but more often than not there are delays because getting in contact with the other party or their insurer can be difficult.

Some adjusters work at different times of day and they may play phone tag. If the third-party involved does not contact back for recorded statements, it is also possible that the claim can take weeks to investigate.

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Step 4: Appraising the Damage

Auto Workshop Mechanic Inspecting Damage To Car And Filling In Repair Estimate

Once the claim is investigated, fault will be determined. At this time, the company who insures the at-fault party will have an appraiser assess the damage and estimate how much the repairs will cost.

You may be satisfied with the appraisal or you may want to appeal it. After two appraisals, you have the right to have a third-party do their own. If they are dramatically different, the amount will be averaged.

This process takes just days if you are happy with the initial estimation, but can take a week or more if you have to arrange your own estimates.

Step 5: Arranging Repairs

Mechanic standing in front of car with two wrenches in hand. Car repair.

Some companies will pay for repairs that are done at an affiliate shop. Others will issue a check for the cost of repairs, towing, and other covered expenses.

If you are arranging repairs with the company, you can choose a direct repair facility and the adjuster will oversee the entire process. The claims check will be cut to the repair facility and you may receive the difference for rental car expenses that you already covered.

How long this takes depends upon the severity of the damage.

Step 6: Settling the Claim

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If you are not going to get your car repaired immediately, you will sit down with your insurer or the other insurer and discuss how much the company will pay for your vehicle.

It is not out of the norm for the first offer to below. If you are happy with the first offer, you can sign for it and it will be settled. If you are not, the negotiations will begin and you can drive the value up.

The goal of the adjuster is to settle the claim for the lowest amount, but you can get more for your car if you are willing to spend the time negotiating.

Physical damage claims take a lot less time to go through than a liability claim with injury. Injury claims may take years to finally close.

There is not a specific answer to how long a claim will take to go through, but once settled and closed an at-fault claim will remain on your record for 3 years.

If you are not happy with your insurer after filing a claim, it might be time to start shopping. Use our online rating tool for instant rate comparisons, and you will be matched to insurers with great rates who also offer good claims service.

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