Filing an auto insurance claim after a car accident can be overwhelming.

If you rely entirely on your vehicle and it’s out of commission, you’re probably wondering, How long does an auto insurance claim take?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this question. The amount of time it takes depends entirely on what kind of car insurance claim you file and how adept your insurance provider is at processing claims quickly—two things which are mostly out of your control.

In this guide, we’ll cover how and when to file an insurance claim, tips to make filing easier, and what to do if your claim is taking too long to resolve. Check it out.

Filing an Auto Insurance Claim: The Basics

Before embarking on the complex adventure of filing an auto insurance claim, you’ll want to assess your options. In some cases, filing a claim may not be the best route to take.

When to File an Auto Insurance Claim

Should you file a claim at all?

If you are involved in a single auto accident it’s prudent to get a vehicle damage estimate from a repair shop before filing a claim. In this case, if the cost of the repair is less than the auto insurance deductible, you may save money by taking care of it yourself and forgoing filing an official car accident claim.

If you are involved in an accident and someone was injured or it’s unclear who’s at fault, you should file a claim, especially because some insurance policies require that you must notify them of potential claims.

Keep in mind, whenever you file a claim—no matter who was at fault—you risk raising your car insurance rate.

How to File an Auto Insurance Claim

Once you’ve determined that you should in fact file a claim, first, take a deep breath. Then, follow these steps to ensure you are not skipping over any key details that your insurer will need later on:

  • Gather evidence More likely than not you have a cell phone on you at the time of your accident. Use this to take photos of the vehicle damage, any personal injury, and of the overall accident scene. If you are injured head to a doctor immediately for a physical evaluation.

  • Know your state’s time limit Different states will have varying timeframes for when a claim needs to be filed and may also have different time frames depending on what kind of claim you’re filing. Understand what these timelines are, and if you have information to add at a later date, figure out what the deadline is for this.

  • File a police report Even if the accident is minor, if another driver is involved you’ll want to file a police report so that you don’t get saddled with blame down the line.

  • Don’t admit guilt Your insurance company is your advocate, kind of like a lawyer in a courtroom. Let the police and insurers decide who is at fault.

  • Call your insurance company – You’ll want to notify your insurance company as soon as possible, even if it’s at the accident scene. They’ll talk you through what documents you’ll need to collect, including a copy of the police report if there is one. Ask them what their timeline looks like for getting this claim processed, and see if there is a feature on the insurance company's website where you can track your claim in real-time.

Types of Claims to File

What kind of claim you file will impact how long the claim takes to get resolved. Different types of claims include:

  • Roadside assistance This claim can be handled quickly. Towing claims are typically easy to file and some insurers will take care of the claim without you having to pay out of pocket.

  • Glass replacement – This is also a fairly straightforward claim. Drivers can usually get a repair scheduled with a glass company within the day or week of the accident.

  • Physical damage This claim can be a bit more complicated depending on the severity of the damage to your vehicle. If the insurance adjuster needs to physically inspect your vehicle, this may delay getting your car repaired. If you are able to use an insurance-carrier approved repair facility you’ll likely get your car back in tip top shape faster, but a typical physical damage claim can take a week or two to get finalized.

  • Total loss This claim, understandably, will take more than a few days or even weeks to process. When dealing with a “total loss” there is plenty of paperwork involved and you’ll need to procure the proper signatures. This claim could take more than 30 days to resolve.

  • Medical If you were injured in your accident, your only responsibility is filling out the initial paperwork (and being sure to get examined by a doctor as soon as possible post accident). After this, it is up to your doctor, car insurance personal injury claim adjuster, and health insurer to resolve the rest.

Tips to Resolving Your Claim Smoothly

When you file an insurance claim, you won’t be working with just one insurance agent.

Your insurance agent may be your point person after your accident, but you’ll also be working with claims adjusters, a body shop, and potentially a doctor’s office or hospital. Any breakdown in communication in this network could cause serious delays in getting your claim resolved.

Unfortunately, again, most of what happens after you file a claim is out of your hands. There are some factors you can control, though. After filing a claim, consider the following:

  • Be patient Your insurance company wants to get your claim resolved as quickly as you do. In an ideal world, you could snap your fingers and your car would be returned to you, good as new. In reality, filing and processing a claim may take time, so be patient with everyone involved when checking in on the status of your claim.

  • Be ready to answer questions – Have your phone or computer ready to go at all times after your accident—you may need to field questions from the body shop or claims adjuster and if you are unreachable, your claim will just take longer to get processed. If you have any questions about the questions being asked of you, your agent is a great resource to walk you through it.

  • Rent or borrow a car If your car is still in the shop and you absolutely need it for work and life, screaming on the phone at the mechanic will not get you on the road faster. Check the terms of your policy to see if your insurer will cover the costs of a rental car, or look into borrowing a car from a friend or family member. Being able to get around while your car is in the shop will help you practice patience.

The Best Car Insurance Companies to Resolve Your Claim Quickly

How long does an auto insurance claim take?

The answer depends on what kind of claim you file—glass repair will be resolved more quickly than medical, for instance—and who your insurance team is. If you have had negative experiences with delayed claims in the past, it may be time to start shopping for a new policy.

Other than avoiding accidents (which are often unavoidable) you can also remedy a dragged out claims process by purchasing a policy from one of the top rated insurance companies.

According to the 2021 U.S. News & World Report, these are the top three auto insurance companies with stellar track records for taking care of drivers after an accident:

  • USAA USAA customers love the company's claims filing process and note that they receive frequent updates on the status of their claims. The only catch is that USAA is available only to active and retired veterans and their family members.

  • Geico Geico also received top ratings, and is available to anyone. Geico customers lauded the easy claim filing process and say they’re likely to renew their policies.

  • Allstate Allstate drivers say the company offers top-notch customer service and the majority say it is easy to file a claim.

The U.S. News & World Report worked with Quadrant Information Services to gather data and based their findings on, among other factors, reports of insurance rates in all 50 states from the 10 largest national car insurance companies.

Online Auto Insurance: Compare, Buy, Save

If you are in the market for a new auto insurance policy and want to conduct your own research, there are ample resources available to you.

For instance, check out the comparison tools of Online Auto Insurance, a comprehensive site that allows you to quickly and easily compare quotes from top insurance companies. Online Auto Insurance also outlines the minimum coverage requirements for each state, so you’ll never get caught driving without the proper insurance.

Ready to find the best auto insurance policy for you?

Sources:

The Balance. How Long Does an Insurance Claim Take?\ https://www.thebalance.com/how-long-does-an-insurance-claim-take-527095

Car and Driver. How Long Does a Car Insurance Claim Take to Settle? \ https://www.caranddriver.com/car-insurance/a31268520/how-long-does-a-car-insurance-claim-take-to-settle/

Insurance Information Institute. How to File an Auto Insurance Claim. \ https://www.iii.org/article/how-do-i-file-claim

Investopedia. How Filing an Insurance Claim Can Raise Your Rates.\ https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/08/claim-raise-rates.asp

U.S. News & World Report. The Best Car Insurance Companies in 2021. \ https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/car-insurance/best-car-insurance-companies