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When you’re in an accident, things already seem stressful enough. But then there’s the added hassle of dealing with insurance. The insurance claims process can be somewhat of a mystery for many. How do you file a claim? How long can you expect it to take? These are the sorts of questions that many car owners have the first time they have to go down this path. We’ve put together the basics here so that you’ll have some facts on your side if you ever find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing to file an insurance claim. 

How to file an insurance claim

A white car involved in a car accident in need of insurance to process claims regarding the accident.
Car accident | Getty Images

Getting the insurance claim process started isn’t usually too hard. Access Insurance explains that you can file an auto insurance claim when your car has been involved in an accident, or you have experienced some other sort of auto-related loss. When you’ve experienced an event appropriate for a claim, you need to contact your insurance company as soon as possible. 

When you speak with the claims representative, that person will gather the appropriate information. You may be required to submit documentation associated with your claim, such as a police report and information provided by the other driver. In some instances, the insurance company will also send an adjuster to inspect your car and report back on the damage. In other cases, the company may allow you to submit photos of the damage instead. 

Once the insurance company has gathered the appropriate information, it will begin to process your claim. 

What influences how long it takes insurance to process claims

After filing your claim, you’ll undoubtedly be eager to hear back from the insurance company as soon as possible. It’s essential to keep in mind that several factors can influence how long the whole process will take. 

For one, the case’s complexity plays a significant role in how long everything takes. Are the facts of the case in dispute? Is there an argument about who is at fault? Does the case involve many drivers? If so, your claims process is almost certain to take longer. 

How soon you file your claim will also play a role in the process. If you’re involved in an accident, make sure to check your policy carefully so that you know how long you have to file. You’ll also want to ensure you have all your documents in order and that you’ve passed them along to your insurer. Delays can occur when the proper paperwork isn’t on file. 

Finally, there’s the question of the insurance adjuster. If an adjuster is required to assess your vehicle damage, you’ll have to arrange a visit that works with their schedule. That can also lead to delays. 

How insurance claims are paid out

Once the process has played out, if your claim has been approved, the next step will be for the insurance company to issue payment. The payment will cover the amount of the loss as they have calculated it. In some cases, such as if your car has been totaled, the payment will go directly to you. In other cases, such as if you require a body shop or mechanic to repair your vehicle, the insurance company may send the payment to the vendor. 

It’s always important to understand the insurance claims process before the need for it arises. That way, you won’t be forced to learn under pressure when you’re already stressed about loss or damage to your vehicle.