How long does it take for a car insurance claim to settle?

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Here's what you need to know...
  • It can take weeks, months, or even years to fully settle a claim
  • Many claims are delayed pending the final medical reports and bills
  • Arbitration may be an option when insurance companies cannot come to an agreement

When it comes to settling auto insurance claims, there can be a drastic variance between companies and even certain situations.

Some claims can move through very quickly, but others may be held up by different factors. If you know what to expect from your insurance information, then you can be prepared for what might be coming your way.

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Busy Adjusters Can Delay Claims

Even in this digital era, there’s still a human element to claims. If an adjuster is very busy, then the claim will naturally be delayed. In some cases, the insurance company itself may want claims over a certain value to be reviewed by a supervisor.

When shopping around for an insurance company, you may want to ask how the claims process works. Find out if there are multiple adjusters in your area who work together to effectively handle large caseloads. Additionally, you can inquire about supervisor approvals on certain claims.

You can also learn a great deal about how a company handles things by looking at their reviews online. People may share information regarding delays, whether they were limited to working with one agent, and how effective the overall service is.

Waiting on the Medical Information

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It’s difficult for insurance companies to settle personal injury claims before the treatments conclude and healing is complete. Insurance companies and attorneys may be able to ask a doctor what the likely future cost of medical expenses will be, but companies typically like to wait until all the medical bills have been released.

Once the victim has all of the medical expenses documented, they can submit a demand package that will include all of their past, current, and expected future losses.

Insurance companies will easily require two to three weeks to review this information, and the claimant may have to follow up with them diligently to keep things moving along in a timely manner.

Gathering the Information

Even when things run smoothly, the insurance company still needs a certain amount of time to gather the required information. Submitting this information in a timely manner can help speed things along and ensure a faster settlement.

Be prepared to give your agent the following information:

  • Reports from both drivers
  • Police reports
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Information regarding physical damage
  • Medical records for related injuries

Some information may be needed immediately, and people are strongly encouraged to call their insurance company before ever leaving the scene. Getting the First Notice of Loss on record can help establish proper coverage.

Take pictures of the scene, and record as much information as possible while it’s all fresh in your memory.

The claims process may be expedited by keeping a daily journal of medical visits, pain level, how injuries are healing, and other losses that are incurred during the healing process. This includes missed work, travel expenses for medical treatments, and co-payments on treatments.

Arbitration Forums

Insurance companies also work together to see that claims are settled. They’ll communicate to determine liability and payment levels for each party. However, in some instances, the two insurance companies cannot come to an agreement and may need to request judgment from Arbitration Forums.

This non-profit group was founded in 1943 to serve most insurance companies. It handles roughly 693,000 arbitration requests annually worth more than $9.75 billion.

The decisions from this group are binding, so this is the final step in lengthy claims where the involved parties have not been able to arrive at an agreement. When shopping around for coverage, you can check with this agency to see which companies are members.

Improve Your Chances for a Speedy Claim

There are steps that consumers can take to streamline the process and help move a claim along. You can follow these tips to avoid problems with your claim and hopefully get everything handled quickly:

  • File the report immediately to expedite the investigation process
  • Be honest with all information sharing
  • Provide the company with all information requested as soon as possible
  • Speak with the insurance adjuster to ensure that everything is on track

Insurance companies will take the time to investigate a claim, but you can avoid questions and problems by following these tips early on. You can also ask your insurance adjuster how long the claim should take so that you can get a better feel for the timeline.

Protecting Yourself After an Accident

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It’s impossible for you to force other drivers to be honest and forthcoming with information, particularly if they might be at fault for the incident. You can protect your personal interests by following a few basic steps at the scene of the accident:

  • Record the name, address, phone number of other drivers if possible
  • Take down the make and license plate of other vehicles
  • Use your cell phone or disposable camera to take pictures of the accident, other cars, and plate numbers
  • Ask the investigating officer how you can obtain a copy of the police report, and then check the report over for errors

When you have this information on hand, you’ll be better prepared to handle challenges with the claim later. This evidence can be used to offset erroneous information given by other parties after an accident.

No-Fault Laws are Meant to Streamline the Process

Several states have instituted no-fault standards that are meant to facilitate the injury claims process. While this does not guarantee a payout, it does mean that the claims are typically handled in a timely manner.

Under no-fault laws, each insurance company covers the medical expenses and property damage for their client, up to the maximum policy limits.

Highly rated companies will often have a clear record settling claims in an expeditious manner.

When shopping around, take a few minutes to check the reviews of companies you’re interested in. While saving money is important, you also want to choose an experienced team that has the staffing to handle your concerns.

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