How Long Do I Have To Wait To Get My Car Fixed After A Motor Vehicle Accident?
The typical motor vehicle accident resulting in property damage generally results in four possible scenarios 4 under pursuant to which the damage can be repaired.
- The car can be repaired by, or repairs can be paid for by, your insurance company. This would be handled pursuant to what is commonly known as collision coverage on your policy, i.e., your insurance for which you pay premiums, which insures against damage to your vehicle.
- The at-fault party’s liability coverage pays for repair to your vehicle This would be handled under the liability coverage on that vehicle, i.e. coverage which pays for the damage to the property of others.
- You have the car fixed and pay for pocket out of pocket for any repairs. You could then, of course, seek to recoup that expense against an at-fault party via litigation.
- You don't have your car fixed.
Obviously, repairs are irrelevant if the car is deemed to be a total loss as a result of the accident. The principles discussed above are the same, at least with respect to the first two choices. If the car is a total loss, you are entitled to collect the fair market value of that car the moment before the accident from either your own collision coverage, or the coverage ensuring the at-fault vehicle. I see a frequently recurring situation in which an accident occurs and, for whatever reason, an insurance company does not immediately accept responsibility for the accident. There are a variety of reasons that an insurance company may contend supports their delay in decision-making. Common reasons advanced are:
- The insurance company is waiting for the police report which can take 10 days to 2 weeks- sometimes more.
- The insurance carrier is having a difficult time taking a statement from their insured.
- The insurance company wants the opportunity to inspect the vehicles involved.
- The insurance carrier is having difficulty interviewing all of the witnesses to the accident.
The reality is an insurance company is always going to be allowed a reasonable amount of time to conduct a liability determination and investigation, especially when liability is not absolutely clear from the objective evidence. Unfortunately, Maryland law does not define what a reasonable time is.
An insurance company is prohibited from acting in an arbitrary or capricious manner, has an obligation under the law to conduct its investigations with reasonable diligence, and, if a claim is one in which liability is very clear, they should promptly make payment.
Notice the law does not impose specific time frames for any of this to happen. What might be arbitrary reasoning or unacceptable delay to one person or observer might be deliberate decision-making and a reasonable time-frame to another. As a rule of thumb, absent extraordinary circumstances, an insurance company should have its liability determination done within 30 days of receipt of notice of the claim. Companies writing insurance policies in Maryland are overseen by the Maryland Insurance Administration [MIA]. Although it is possible to file a complaint with them, my experience is that the provide no assistance if the dispute is one over the value of the claim, and absent an egregious delay, are unlike to get involved where the claimant believes the insurance company should act more expeditiously. The gap, and attendant delay, between the happening of an accident, and insurance company accepting responsibility for the accident can be a frustrating and sometimes crippling one- especially where an individual needs the vehicle for work purposes. If the person in that circumstance has opted not to purchase collision and rental replacement coverage on their own vehicle- the consequences can be devastating. If you have collision coverage available, there are often advantages to proceeding through repair under your own policy. Speed is first and foremost. You may also have additional options regarding the selection of the garage or repair facility. On the downside, if you opt to use your own collision coverage to repair your vehicle you are initially responsible for your deductible. On the plus side, if your insurance company ultimately prevails against the driver of the other vehicle, or their insurance company, typically handled through a process of intercompany arbitration, they will, or at least will attempt to get your deductible refunded to you. The unfortunate reality is there may be little that one can do to entice an insurance company to act quickly if they take the posture that they are investigating liability prior to paying for property damage. If the accident is one involving personal injury as well as property damage, a veteran personal injury attorney may be able to assist in speeding up the process by:
- funneling information to an insurance adjuster
- assembling that information in a coherent package, and
- potentially advancing arguments for you supporting you are version of liability.
Many of the best personal injury and accident attorneys in Maryland conduct their own liability investigation inappropriate circumstances and sharing that information with a claims adjuster can assist and expedite the process.
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 11/20/20.