How long can an auto insurance claim stay open?

There are several factors that affect how quickly auto insurance companies settle a claim. The key to having your claim settled quickly is filling out the paperwork promptly and accurately and supplying your insurer with all necessary documents. Learn what you'll need to file a claim.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Jun 10, 2022

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Things to remember...

  • How long a claim can stay open depends on the state
  • Filing a full and detailed claim can help speed its processing
  • Some companies process claims more promptly than others

When you are involved in an auto accident, it’s a stressful time. One of the most important concerns is whether your auto insurance company settles your claim fairly and quickly, allowing you to pay medical expenses for injuries to you and others and to repair the damage to your car.

Most insurers try to settle claims as quickly as possible, but there are several factors that can affect how long it will take. Additionally, each state has its own regulations concerning how long a car insurance claim can stay open. Understanding the details is important to insurance customers.

How Long a Claim Can Stay Open

Generally, an auto insurance company will complete an accident investigation and settle a claim within 30 days. This does vary from state to state. For example, California allows an insurance company 40 days to decide to accept or reject a claim and then 30 days to settle once it has been accepted. In Texas, an insurer must accept or reject within 30 days and settle in five after acceptance. North Carolina allows the insurance company 30 days to decide to accept and then 10 to settle from when the claim is accepted.

Check with your state insurance department for the specific time limits your claim can stay open, and if that amount of time has passed and your car insurance claim is still open, file a complaint.

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How Promptly You File Your Claim

Some states give you a two- to three-year car accident insurance claim time limit. In other states, the time is shorter, so it’s important to check your local laws. The clock starts on the date of your accident and ends on a date specified by your state’s statute of limitations.

No matter the time limit, you want to file your claim properly and promptly to ensure a fast settlement by your insurance company. First, make sure you know your company’s policy on how the insurance adjuster settles a claim. If you file too late, your claim will be rejected. Gather all the information you can, including the personal and insurance information of any other drivers, passengers, or third parties involved in the accident. You also will need a copy of the police report if law enforcement was contacted. Your insurer will need all of this information should it run an investigation into the cause and details of the accident.

How Severe the Accident Was

For a fender bender, especially if no other drivers are involved, most companies will process the claim quickly. You can then claim insurance for car dents. However, the more serious the accident, the more the insurer will likely have to pay. In these cases, the company will take the time to thoroughly investigate the claim. Serious injuries to one or more persons or extensive car damage, especially if the vehicle is totaled, will require all the information you can provide.

Some of the things you should have are:

  • Details about how the accident occurred. Be honest as to how it happened, even if you were at fault. You can delay the processing of your claim with a less-than-factual account of the accident. Include any pertinent details such as weather, time of day, obstructions to vision, or anything else that may have played a role.
  • Seatbelts and airbags. Whether or not you and your passengers were wearing seatbelts is an important detail if there were injuries. Your insurer also needs to know whether the airbags were deployed.
  • Injuries. Report any injuries suffered by you, other drivers, passengers, or third parties. Be honest about these as well and have each injured party examined by a doctor for accurate diagnoses of injuries. A medical report is even better.
  • Police report. In a serious accident, the police will generally be called. They will provide you with a report of the accident if you request one. File a copy with your claim. Though it’s possible to file a claim without a police report in many situations, it’s always best to have one.
  • Witnesses. Talk to anyone who witnessed the accident and have them write down what they saw. These written accounts should be part of the claim.
  • Photographs. If you are able to, take photographs at the scene of the accident. Get shots of the damage done to vehicles involved from several angles. Take photos of any property damage and anything that may have contributed to the accident, such as wet roads, an obstruction to visibility, or construction barriers.
  • Medical bills. Copies of bills from hospitals, doctors, and specialists are also necessary for processing claims of accidents where there were injuries.

Providing complete and detailed information can help speed up the claims process, but in a severe accident involving multiple vehicles, the claim could still take some time for your insurance company to settle.

How Your Insurance Company Operates

The amount of time you have to file and claim and how long it takes to be settled is also impacted by your auto insurance company and how it operates. Some companies will allow you to file a claim online, which can help make the process faster. Other companies will require a phone call and may ask you to mail in information.

An insurance company will generally refer your case to a claims adjuster. The adjuster will be in charge of the investigation and determine which damage and medical bills and how much of each the company will pay.

How efficiently and how quickly all of this happens varies from one company to the next. When shopping for an auto insurance company, one important factor to consider is the reputation the companies have for the prompt and accurate settling of claims. Saving money on rates can cost you in the long run if you have to wait a long time to get a claim for an accident that inflicted costly repair and medical bills.

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What to Do if Your Claim Is Delayed

Insurance companies have an obligation to keep you abreast of the status of your claims. This is especially important if your car is not driveable or if you are receiving expensive medical treatments. Such situations are expensive and inconvenient. If your claim is taking longer than expected to settle, contact your claims adjuster or agent to get answers to why it is taking so long.

If you are not getting answers, you can file a complaint with your state’s Department of Insurance. This agency will take over the accident investigation and also investigate your company and how they are handling your claim. Most claims are settled within 60 days. If yours is taking a lot longer, get help in moving the process along.

The Bottom Line on How Long Car Insurance Claims Can Stay Open

Car accidents happen sometimes, even if they are not your fault. Compensating for those damages is the purpose of insurance. How long an auto insurance claim can stay open depends on the laws of your state. Most insurance companies settle claims quickly. Do everything you can to provide all necessary information, and seek help if your claim is taking an unreasonably long time to settle.

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