How long does an insurance co. have to send auto settlement check?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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How long does an insurance co. have to send auto settlement check?

My car was totaled. The at fault drivers insurance said the car was totaled and offered me a settlement. They came and took the car away, but I have not received the check yet. They won’t take my phone calls. Is there a law protecting me?

Asked on January 18, 2018 under Insurance Law, Arizona


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

There is no law saying how long the other driver's insurer has to send you a check: if there was an agreement as to when you'd get it, you could enforce that agreement (i.e. sue them for "breach of contract" if they won't honor what they agreed to), but without a specific agreement, the law does not impose a hard-and-fast deadline: rather, they simply need to provide the payment in a "reasonable" time.
If you feel that too long has passed, then you sue: again, you sue for breach of contract, but the basis is not violation of a specific term as to date of payment, but rather violation of the agreement that they will pay you in exchange for settling the case and letting them take the car. You did your part--they received the car--so they have to now do their part. In addition, sue them for unjust enrichment and theft by deception (or just "theft," if your state does not have a separate category for "theft by deception" or trickery), as well as for breach of contract:
* Unjust enrichment: they are unfairly or inequitably enriched by taking or receiving something (the car) which they were supposed to pay for without paying, and the law does not allow that.
* Theft (or theft by deception): they in essence stole your car by tricking you--they told you they'd pay you the settlement but didn't.
Similarly, you can also add fraud to lawsuit: they lied about what they would do (claiming you'd get the settlement, if you let them take your car). 
And while filing, file a lawsuit also against their driver (you can sue multiple people in one suit) for the the damage he or she did to your car--until and unless you actually successfully settle the case, you can sue the other driver, and this case is not settled if the insurer does not pay you. Suing the driver, too, puts more pressure on the insurer (the driver will pressure them to settle the case and get him/her off the hook) and gives you someone else to recover compensation from if, for some reason, you can't get it from this insurer.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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