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How Long Until You Get Your Insurance Money?

Most auto insurance companies have direct repair programs and can refer you to one of their shops. The shop assesses the damage and communicates with the insurer for you.

"Delays are not very good for keeping customers," notes Passmore. The goal is to get each claim handled as quickly as possible, and to make sure the right amount is paid so the insurer doesn't have to deal with it again. "If insurers are going to do things like delay, they're going to lose a customer."

Time is money

When an insurance company snags a new customer, there are costs associated with "acquiring" the new client. There's advertising, paying the insurance agent their commission, and the cost to produce the policy for the first time. It can take as many as seven years before an insurer can break even on a particular policy, and that's assuming the customer doesn't have a claim, explains Passmore.

If they have a claim the insurer will have to keep them even longer -- ideally claim-free -- to make back its money. So insurers are always better off providing good service and fair settlements in order to retain customers, who on average submit a claim only once every 10 years, according to Passmore.

And if you don't like the customer service, "There's a lot of competition out there that will be happy to take that customer off your hands," says Passmore. Insurers don't have much incentive to delay; they want to get claims paid as fairly and quickly as they can.

Staking your claim

Claims against someone else's policy are a different ballgame.

"Any time you are going through a carrier that you're not insured with [the other party's insurer], that process has the potential to be slowed down a bit just while the investigation is continuing," says Dan Young, senior vice president of CARSTAR, North America's largest multi-shop network of independently owned and operated collision repair facilities.

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