How Long Will It Take to Reach a Settlement for My Claim?The amount of time it will take to settle your property damage claim can vary considerably depending on the damage extent and location and how the insurance company responds to your filing. Some claims may resolve within weeks, while others can take months or even years. Generally speaking, you can expect an insurance agent to contact you within a few days after you first notify your provider of a covered event. However, if a recent natural disaster affected multiple properties in your area, your wait time may be longer. Once you have spoken with an insurance agent, you will typically need to wait a few more days for an insurance adjuster to examine your property. After you have submitted your claim, you should get some indication that the insurance company has received it. In many states, providers must acknowledge their receipt of a claim within a specific timeframe, usually 15 to 30 days. Some states also have deadlines for insurance companies to make claim determinations or pay out settled claims. While many states have enacted consumer protection laws requiring insurance companies to handle claims promptly, some have not. And even with these legal deadlines in place, the time it takes to settle a claim can still vary around the margins for several reasons. For instance, a relatively straightforward claim for minor vehicle damage after an accident could settle quickly. In contrast, a severe commercial property damage claim after a devastating storm would likely take much longer. A slow insurance claim process can be agonizing when you're eager to get things back on track after a catastrophic property damage event. According to survey data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the top consumer complaints regarding the insurance industry are about delays. Claim handling delays are the most common complaints, but complaints regarding delayed communications, authorizations, and payments are also frequent. You may be able to obtain a larger settlement and a speedier resolution to your claim by working with a property damage attorney. But remember that a faster settlement does not always mean a better one. When a lawyer handles your claim, they will spend most of their time working to increase your settlement value. And although you can choose to accept a settlement offer at any time during this lengthy process, holding out for as long as possible is often the best way to obtain outstanding results.
What Factors Might Affect the Timeline for My Claim?The timeline for your property damage claim is subject to myriad contributing factors, some of which are within your control and others are not. Let's take a look at some key elements that can affect how long it takes to resolve your claim:
- When you initiate your claim. Most insurance companies require claimants to notify the company of covered events promptly, often by specific deadlines. The sooner you report the property damage and file your claim, the sooner your provider can begin responding and investigating. On the flip side, if you fail to notify your provider or file your claim promptly, your insurer may have grounds for denial due to non-compliance with the terms of your policy.
- The nature of the damage. If your property sustained extensive or costly damage, you could usually expect the settlement process to take a bit longer. When insurance companies are on the hook for expensive repairs or large restoration projects, they typically want to account for every penny before paying. This often means lengthy investigations, one or more independent appraisals, and fierce settlement negotiations. Sometimes, providers may request extensions on your state's usual deadlines for claim investigations and settlement payments.
- The overall level of cooperation. Insurance adjusters frequently ask claimants and other relevant parties for information and evidence during investigations. Delayed responses or a general lack of cooperation from any parties involved, including claimants or providers, can push back the resolution of a given claim. You can do your part to expedite your claim settlement by responding promptly to inquiries from the adjuster and providing supporting documentation as requested.
- Disputes over liability. If another party's negligent or intentional behavior contributed to the damage to your property, you could file a claim against their liability insurance policy for compensation. But if the other party refuses to accept responsibility or implies that you were to blame, it may complicate and lengthen the settlement process. Similarly, if multiple insurance providers must cover your losses, it can take time to determine which insurer pays first.
- Insurance company size. If your insurance company is a relatively small outfit, it may take them longer to investigate, settle, and pay out claims because they have fewer adjusters to handle them. When you file a claim with a larger insurance company, however, you can generally expect faster response times since teams of adjusters often handle such claims.
- Your patience for negotiation. Negotiating a settlement can take a lot of time, even for a reasonably straightforward claim. In most cases, the first settlement offer you receive will be for much less than your claim is worth, and it's up to you to push for better terms. There is often a great deal of back-and-forth before insurance companies, claimants, and their attorneys find a compromise. And while it can be frustrating, exercising patience during this stage of your claim can yield substantial rewards.
- Bad faith insurance practices. Insurance companies provide services that are “quasi-public” in nature, which means the law requires them to consider the interests of the public in addition to their own. Insurers must act in “good faith” by fairly and promptly investigating, handling, and paying claims. Unfortunately, some providers prioritize the company's bottom line over customer support by engaging in bad faith practices, leading to unnecessary delays and unfair claim denials.
- Whether you hire an attorney. Contrary to what you may expect, your property damage claim may take longer when you retain the services of a lawyer. But in these cases, the longer timeline is typically a good thing. A knowledgeable insurance attorney will conduct a thorough and independent investigation, gather valuable supporting evidence, and negotiate aggressively to maximize the value of your claim. The processes take time but are more likely to deliver excellent results.
How Soon Will I Get Paid After I Accept a Settlement Offer?It depends. After you accept an offer for your property damage claim, it is up to you how you will receive the settlement money. The two primary ways to arrange settlement payouts are a lump-sum settlement or a structured settlement. Traditionally, most insurers settle claims with lump-sum payments. The insurance company makes a single, large payment that fully resolves the policyholder's claim. The main benefit to a lump-sum settlement is that you receive all of your money right away, so you can pay off bills and make new purchases immediately. Unfortunately, the primary advantage of a lump-sum settlement is also a significant disadvantage since there's nothing to stop you from spending everything at once. Instead of lump-sum payments, some claimants opt for structured settlements. In a structured settlement arrangement, you receive the same amount of money, but you get it in installments over several months or years. This isn't always practical for more modest settlements, but a structured settlement may be the way to go if your claim is worth more than $150,000. The structure will force you to spend more wisely and may also reduce your tax burden in the long run. Once you decide how to collect your compensation, the insurance company should promptly begin payments. You can usually expect a lump-sum settlement check or the first installment of your structured settlement within four to eight weeks of settling, though some states require carriers to pay settled claims sooner. Contact a knowledgeable attorney for answers if you have questions about when to expect your check.
How Can I Prevent Delays in My Property Damage Claim Settlement?Dealing with constant claim delays can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you need the money now for property repairs, restoration, replacement, or related costs. The best thing you can do is hire a property damage lawyer to represent you. Here are some ways you can take action to prevent and minimize delays for your claim:
- Respond promptly. If the insurance adjuster asks for details or documentation to support your claim, respond with the requested information as soon as possible to keep the ball rolling.
- Digitize evidence. If you can, it's a good idea to scan and digitize documents related to your claim. Not only will this keep your claim information organized and easily accessible, but it will also make these items easier to share.
- Tell the truth. This should go without saying, but you should never lie to the insurance company. If you misrepresent the facts or tell conflicting stories, the adjuster may grow suspicious, significantly delaying your claim.
- Do your research. If you live in a state that imposes claim resolution deadlines on insurance companies, find out how long your provider has and remember the date. If the provider fails to resolve your claim within the necessary time limit, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.
- Be proactive. Take plenty of pictures or video footage damaged property and write down all you know about what happened. If you submit this information with your initial claim, the adjuster won't have to spend time tracking it down later. Additionally, don't be afraid to ask for updates or what you can do to speed up your claim if it feels like the adjuster is taking a long time.