How Long Does an Auto Insurance Claim Take? (Timeline)
Two years ago I was on my way to work and stopped at a red light. The truck in front of me went to far out and started to back up. I honked on my horn, but they didn’t stop. He backed up right into me. The truck had no damage but my front end had taken quite the beating. Thankfully nobody was injured and my car was driveable.
I filed a claim with my insurance company and within a few days had a check for the repairs. It was a relatively quick and painless process.
On the flip side, a few years ago I was picking up my infant son from daycare. I was leaving the parking lot, which tends to be a throughway for patrons of a Dunkin drive-through, when I was hit by another vehicle. My son was in the car, but thankfully we were both unharmed. My car sustained damaged, I needed a rental while it had repairs, and I needed a replacement car seat.
I filed a claim with the other party, but had to wait for them to accept fault, wait to be reimbursed for my rental and fight for my car seat to be covered. Needless to say, this took several weeks to resolve.
So how long will your auto insurance claim take? What can you expect during the process? And what can you do to speed up the process?
If you’re asking these questions, you’re in the right place. We’ve got answers! Since 1922, Berry Insurance has been helping Massachusetts residents navigate the auto insurance claims process. We know exactly what to expect and how you can help make the process quicker.
A claim can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to even years to resolve depending on the severity. Here’s a basic timeline on what you can expect to happen and what will affect the length of time your claim takes to be resolved.
Are there laws for how long an insurance claim will take?
While many insurance companies will strive to resolve your claim as quickly as possible, typically within 30 days, there is no statute in Massachusetts that dictates time limits for claims settlement.
According to the state, the only explanation about time limits is that “insurance companies are required by law to pay all claims in a prompt and reasonable amount of time.”
That being said, here is a quick timeline on what you can expect with your claim.
Timeline of an Insurance Claim
Once you report your claim, an adjuster is assigned right away; but may take 24-48 hours to reach out to you. The adjuster is an employee of your insurance company, and is responsible for reviewing all of the claim notes, determining who is at fault, and keeping you up to speed on how the claim is progressing.
Should anything happen in between the time of your accident and when you hear from your adjuster, keep notes or contact your insurance agent. For example, if you’ve got a rental, if your car has been moved, or if you’ve received any correspondence from the other party or their insurance company.
Likewise, if you do not hear from your adjuster, or are not happy with how your claim is being handled, be sure to reach out to your insurance agent right away. The insurance agency is usually not updated by the insurance company on how the claim progresses, so if something is delayed, we may not know at the same time you do.
Choosing an Autobody Repair Shop
If your vehicle needs repairs, you are free to bring your vehicle to an autobody shop of choice. Your autobody shop may give you an estimate of the repairs before you receive the appraisal from the insurance company. Just be sure they do not begin work until the insurance company has had a chance to assess your damages themselves.
If there are damages to your vehicle, the adjuster will assign an appraiser. The appraiser is typically not an employee of your insurance company, so they are able to give an unbiased opinion of the damages.
The appraiser will reach out to you to schedule an appointment to view your vehicle and assess the damages. This cane be done at whatever location is convenient to you – your home, work or at whatever autobody shop you choose.
The appraiser is typically assessing several vehicles in a day, so it may take a few days to get their estimate to your insurance company for review. Be sure to get the appraiser’s contact information so you can request a copy of the estimate if you don’t hear in a few days.
Claim Check Issued
Once your adjuster has received the appraisal of damages, it could take them anywhere from a day up to a week to issue the claim check. This is due to the adjuster needing to review the claim notes to determine fault and approve the appraisal amount.
Additional Repairs Needed
Once your autobody shop begins repairs, it is very likely they could find additional damages that could not be seen during the initial visual inspection. At this point the autobody shop would request a “supplement” to your insurance company. This is simply a statement of additional damages to have the repairs authorized and paid.
Reimbursement For Deductible
The insurance company will withhold your deductible from your claim check. If you were not at fault in the accident, the insurance company will “subrogate” with the other party to be reimbursed. This simply means that your insurance company will submit a request to the other insurance company for reimbursement of the claim amount.
Once they are reimbursed, they will release your deductible payment to you. The subrogation process happens behind the scenes and can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to resolve.
What could delay the claims process?
Unfortunately, there are many things that can slow down your insurance claims process and prevent you from getting your claim paid in a timely manner. Some of these are preventable, but some are dependent upon the circumstances.
Incorrect Policy Information
If there is anything incorrect on your Massachusetts auto insurance policy, your insurance company could deny your claim. One of the most important things you can do is make sure your policy is always up to date with accurate information.
Delay in Claim Reporting
If you delay reporting your claim, or you choose to handle your claim outside insurance and then later try to report it, you could prevent your insurance company from being able to handle your claim adequately. (Keep in mind, if your accident resulted in any injuries, deaths or damages worth $1,000 or more, you are required to file a Massachusetts Crash Report within 5 days of the accident.)
Wrong Contact Details
If you do not provide all the correct contact information for yourself or any of the other parties it could delay your claim. Be sure to get all the correct names, phones, emails and policy details for all parties involved and clearly communicate them to your adjuster. A simple way to ensure you have all the accurate information is by taking pictures of license plates, registrations and licenses. If you get a phone number, call it before you leave the accident to make sure that it is the correct number for the other party.
It is imperative that you return calls from your adjuster and the appraiser as soon as possible. We know you’re busy, but the longer your wait to return calls, the longer your claim will take to be resolved.
We’re going to be honest here – insurance claims adjusters are overworked. They handle many claims in a day and they are easily backlogged. We’re not making excuses by any means, but we want to be realistic here. If your claim is not moving along as quickly as you’d like, don’t wait. Contact your insurance agent immediately to let them know what’s happening and have them help get things moving for you.
If you file your claim with the other party, and that party is insured with a direct writing insurance company, you will likely experience a significant delay in your insurance claim. The fact of the matter is, we’ve seen these insurance companies claim that they are “unable to contact” their client for a response or to determine fault. This could go on for weeks, even months.
This is another situation where you want to reach out to your insurance agent to see if they can help speed up the process.
If your accident involved multiple vehicles, or involved expenses in addition to vehicle repair, such as medical injuries, car seats, rental cars, etc. you should expect your claim to take longer to resolve. Any time a claim is more complex it means there is more paperwork to review and more back and forth that has to happen.
If a significant weather event contributed to your accident, and may other people in the same area were impacted by the weather, you may see a delay. Many times insurance companies will outsource appraisers from other regions of the U.S. when weather-related claims create unusually high workloads. These high workloads can result in longer timeframes for case files to be reviewed and resolved.
If your vehicle is declared a total loss there will be additional paperwork and steps to be completed. The insurance company typically will take possession of the vehicle and you’ll need to sign the title over and cancel the plates.
If there are injuries involved, there could be litigation involved. For example, in Massachusetts you have three years to file a lawsuit for personal injury or property damage.
What can I do to speed up the process?
While there are many things that can hang up your insurance claims process, there are thankfully several areas where you can help speed up the process!
Report Your Claim Right Away
Report your claim to your insurance agent as soon as possible. Keeping your insurance agent informed of the claim and what is happening will allow them to stay on top of things with the insurance company so nothing falls through the cracks. (Remember: if you don’t have the right information you need, contact your insurance agent to help you get it.)
Sign a Direction to Pay
If you’ve brought your vehicle to an auto body shop to await repairs, signing a “direction to pay” (authorizing the insurance company to issue the check right to the shop) could help speed up the scheduling of repairs with the shop.
Make sure you stay on top of phone calls and emails from the insurance company adjuster, appraiser and insurance agent. Responding to any messages immediately will help get your claim resolved quicker.
Keep Detailed and Thorough Records
Make notes on any phone calls you have, keep receipts of repairs or rentals. Take pictures at the accident and send them to the adjuster. The more detailed documentation you have, the quicker your adjuster can come to a resolution.
What do I do now?
If you’re in the middle of an auto insurance claim, the number one thing you can do right now is contact your insurance agent. They can get you an updated status on where your claim stands, how long to expect until it’s resolved, and what you can do in the meantime to help speed things up.
We realize that you might be afraid to come across as annoying by consistently checking in, but trust us when we say, you aren’t. That is what we’re here for!
We never like to have our clients deal with the stress of an auto insurance claim, but at Berry Insurance, we take pride in helping you navigate your claim. We’ll do everything in our power to get things resolved quickly and painlessly and we’ll fight to get your claim fully covered.
For more information on the auto insurance claims process, check out our Massachusetts Auto Claims FAQ.