How Long Does it Take to Investigate a Car Accident Claim in DC, Maryland and Virginia?

By Peter DePaolis

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One of the main phases of any car insurance claim is the accident investigation. The investigation may involve an insurance claims adjuster reviewing the facts of your case, visiting the scene of the accident, interviewing witnesses, analyzing evidence and determining fault.

As the victim of a car accident, your life may be on hold while a car insurance company investigates. The insurance company will not grant your request for damages before verifying fault and liability. You may have to pay for things out of pocket while you wait for the resolution of your insurance claim. Hiring an experienced Fairfax car accident attorney can help expedite the car insurance claim process. Learning how long the insurance company has to investigate in your state, therefore, could help you know what to expect.

Washington, DC

Washington, DC does not have a specific number of days in which a car insurance company must complete its investigation of an accident. The law simply states an insurer must implement reasonable standards for the prompt investigation of claims. Most insurance companies in the District of Columbia take 30 to 45 days to complete their investigations and give claimants an answer. If an insurance company needs more time to investigate, it must notify the claimant of the reason for the delay.


In Maryland, the regulations on claim settlements have standards in place for how long an insurance company can take to investigate. The law gives an insurer 45 days to complete its investigation of a first-party claim. If the insurance company needs more time after 45 days pass, the insurer must promptly notify the claimant in writing of the reason it will need additional time. The insurance company must continue to send such a notice every 45 days until the company approves or denies the claim.


According to Virginia’s Bureau of Insurance, most insurance companies take 45 days to complete their investigations and issue written responses upon receiving new claims. Insurance companies may take longer, however, if the case has complex elements or unique issues, or if the agent has to conduct extensive research to assess the claim. The insurance company must keep the claimant informed of the status of the case in writing, especially if the company will need longer than 45 days to investigate.

What if an Insurance Company Delays an Investigation?

Expect your car insurance claim investigation to take 30 to 45 days or less in most situations. If your insurer needs to take longer, you should receive a written notice with a valid reason for the delay. Valid reasons could include a complicated case, liability disputes or missing information. After 45 days pass, contact the insurance company for an update on your case. You might be the victim of insurance bad faith if the company neglects your claim, keeps you in the dark or does not have a valid reason for the delay.

Waiting months for the completion of an insurance investigation and never hearing anything from the insurer could be an example of insurance bad faith. In DC, Maryland and Virginia, insurance companies must at least notify claimants of an investigation delay and give valid reasons if they are going to take longer than 45 days. If you are unhappy with how an insurer is handling your car accident claim, consult with a car accident attorney about your rights. You may have grounds for a bad faith claim.

Insurance bad faith refers to unfair or illegal practices by an insurance company, often to save money. If a car insurance company wants to reduce its liability for a collision, it may treat your claim in bad faith. This could unfairly delay the payment you otherwise might have already received for your medical bills and other damages. You do not have to accept unreasonable investigation delays from an insurance company after an auto accident. Speak to a bad faith insurance lawyer about bringing a bad faith claim to protect your rights and force the car insurer to handle your claim more fairly.


About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.