How long does it usually take an insurance company to offer to settle in an auto accident case?

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How long does it usually take an insurance company to offer to settle in an auto accident case?
Car insurers can settle claims in days, months or years. (Jim Dyson/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

There are no fixed settlement deadlines for car insurance claims. The time it takes for an insurer to settle depends on the company, its procedures and the accident itself. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has set timescales for settlement but these depend on issues such as liability and damages. Straightforward claims can be settled in weeks but more complex cases can drag on for months or even years. Your insurer can advise you on timescales when you make a claim, but you need to be aware that some issues may delay the settlement process.

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Financial Conduct Authority guidelines

The FCA sets a three month deadline for settlements in motor vehicle insurance claims but this is not set in stone. Insurers do not have to stick to this timescale, for example, if liability is contested or denied, or if the amount of damages has not been calculated. The deadline can then roll over and be extended for another three months once these issues have been addressed. This won't apply in most standard claims, but is worth bearing in mind.

Simple claims

Simple accidents that were your fault and/or don't involve anybody else are usually the quickest to process. These can sometimes be handled in days, though you are likely to have to wait a week or two. Some more complex claims, such as write-offs, may also be relatively quick. Once the insurer has established that the car is not driveable and is beyond repair, it will give you a valuation. If you accept this, your settlement can be agreed in days. If you don't, then it will take longer.

Complex claims

Claims that are more complex can stretch into months and, in extreme cases, years if court action becomes necessary. This is often down to the involvement of other parties -- some insurers give a ballpark estimate of three to six months to completely finish claims where the accident was partly your fault or the fault of the other party. Liability can also add to timescales. If nobody will admit responsibility for the accident, the insurer can't settle until they establish what happened. Personal injury assessments may also add delays. If you make a claim because your car was stolen, your insurer may wait for a period of time before they start settlement procedures to see if it is recovered.

Speeding up a claim

There are things you can't control when you make a claim, but there are things you can do to avoid being the cause of a delay. It is important to follow your insurer's instructions as closely as you can after the accident and to provide any paperwork or evidence it asks for. The company needs to know exactly what happened before it will settle. If you are missing documents or have submitted incorrect information, the claims process will be delayed until everything is in order so make sure to send through all requested documents and to be as accurate as you can.

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