Your car has been damaged in an accident and you are without transportation. How long should you expect it to take for the insurance company to repair your car so you can get back on the road? The answer to this question is going to depend on several factors.

The Extent of the Damage

First, you must realize that the extent of the damage will, in some ways, determine how long it takes your claim to be processed and the repairs to be done. A good rule of thumb is that if your car is severely damaged but not totaled, it will take longer than if you have a simple dent. It may simply take longer to fix larger amounts of damage; parts may have to be ordered, and you may find that you are waiting several weeks for the insurance company to assess the damage, agree on a repair price, and pay for the work.

How difficult is the claim?

However, the extent of the damage to your car does not cause you a tremendously long wait in most cases. What holds up claims in the majority of situations is when the insurance companies involved are arguing over who is at fault or whether both parties had coverage. In these cases, the victim’s insurance company may have to pay for the damage then subrogate the claim, or try to collect it from the defendant or the other insurance company.

Here is an example of how this might work. Suppose you were waiting to make a left turn when a car pulled out from behind you, sideswiped you, and then left the scene. You manage to pull your car into a parking lot nearby, but there is significant damage to your wheel and the side of your car. Fortunately, the police are able to apprehend the hit-and-run driver, but it turns out that he was unlicensed and operating the vehicle without the owner’s permission.

Now you have a fine legal mess to sort through before you can make a claim with any insurance company. First, the driver’s actions were illegal, so he will be arrested, and the insurance company will want documentation of that fact. Once your insurance company finds out that the owner had insurance, they will want you to file a claim with that person’s insurance company.

Next, the owner of the car must be willing to press charges against the driver for using the vehicle without permission. If the owner fails to do this, the owner’s insurance company may refuse to pay the claim. This means that your insurance company will have to pay and subrogate the claim against the car’s owner. If they can collect any money from the owner, they will do so, but this is a long and drawn-out process which could take time.

At this point, your own uninsured motorist or collision coverage would have to pay for your damages, and that means sending an adjuster from your company to assess the damage, finding a repair shop, having the car towed, and finally having the car repaired.

In the above scenario, it is not out of the question to think that it might take a week or more just to establish who is paying for the damage, let alone get the car to a repair shop for service. You would probably have to wait to move the car as you do not want to prejudice any claim you might have against the other insurance company by appearing to take responsibility for the accident or for the repairs.

These types of situations, while not common, can be very frustrating for an insured driver. However, it is all part of doing business with car insurance companies, and the best way to handle it is to follow your company’s advice to the letter. If your company is not forthcoming with help, you may even have to engage the services of a lawyer to get it straightened out. Usually being assertive and firm is the right method when dealing with hesitant insurance companies.

Another scenario is one in which you are at fault for the accident. Although you have coverage, you may find that the insurance company is quicker to pay the other person’s claim than yours. It is not unusual for insurance companies to put their own insured’s repairs in a lower position of priority than paying off a victim in order to avoid a lawsuit. This is also a time when assertive but polite communication can help you to solve the problem. It also helps if you get estimates for the repairs yourself, if you are allowed to do so. This way, you know exactly where the car will be taken and what it will cost to have it fixed.