How long does the insurance company have to determine liability or fault for accident?
The answer depends on the type of claim being made and what party is making that claim. When making a claim against an at fault party’s insurance company, there is no set deadline. When making a claim against your own insurance company, the insurance company owes you duties as their insured, duties implied by contract law, to reasonably investigate and resolve all claims. If an insurer breaches that duty, the insured may have a cause of action for bad faith. In practice, most liability decisions are made within 30 days of the date of accident.
Although they are not the only reasons, there are two important things that often cause the liability decision to be delayed. The first is when the police report takes longer than anticipated to be released. Insurance companies and attorneys use the police report as initial evidence for who caused the accident. It is generally reliable as the report of a neutral third party.
It usually takes 10-14 days to acquire a police report, depending on the agency that made it. Sometimes it takes much longer than this. Police officers may go on vacation or there may be other issues getting the report approved. The second is if the at fault insurance company cannot get a hold of their insured. This happens from time to time. The insurance company usually delays making a liability decision, even if it seems otherwise obvious who was at fault, until they speak to their insured.
The determination of liability is an important factor in your case. This is the phase where the insurance company will either accept or deny responsibility for the damages caused. Part of the insurance company’s due diligence can be obtaining a recorded statement from their insured, you, or any witnesses to the accident. Not all insureds co-operate with their insurance company. Sometimes an insurance adjuster will probably know his insured to be at fault but cannot move forward on the claim until the insured is spoken to. This sometimes add 30-60 days to the process. So long as the insurance company is making reasonable efforts, there is not a lot we can do to push forward at this time.
I always request that the insurance company respond in writing as to their determination of liability in the initial correspondence sent to the adjuster.
Once liability is determined, the insurance company will have your car evaluated and the decision will be made to fix property damage, or have it totaled out.