Say it's March 1 and you have a fender-bender in your car. Just how long do you have to wait to get your insurance check for the damages? Generally you should be riding pretty by April 1. At least that's the goal of most auto insurance companies -- to have your claim paid out on or before the 30-day mark. Of course, there's no certainty your vehicle will be repaired by then.
But auto insurance rules are made to be broken. The time limit to pay your claim varies by state, according to each state's "claims settlement provisions." In Connecticut, paying "promptly" is the vague term used, which describes a payment within 30 days, and only if it is an undisputed "clean" claim. A clean claim means there is a straightforward accident, the insurer has complete documentation and there's no dispute between parties or question whether the insurer should pay.
In New Jersey, insurers have 60 days to pay a bodily injury claim. In Texas, insurers have five business days after acceptance to pay claims. Insurers can be subject to interest, fines and penalties for not complying.
"The state laws are usually things like you have so many days to acknowledge a claim has been made, around 15," says Bob Passmore, senior director of personal lines at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a trade group.Some states have laws stating if someone has a proof of loss, the carrier has a certain number of days to pay or determine what their position is -- to deny the claim or ask for more information, for example. "But the vast majority of claims are paid in a much shorter time frame," says Passmore. When there's a dispute or larger claim (like a total loss), insurers need to assess the damage, which can stretch out the process. A typical fender-bender should be handled and closed fairly quickly.