The first step in the insurance claim process is to notify the people that you are filing the claim against, if any exist. For example, if you are filing a claim against an auto accident, the parties deemed at fault in the incident need to be notified. In most cases, this step is understood, but it may not always be apparent in other types of claims, such as a neighbor's tree falling over and damaging your home or garage.
Next, collect documentation to back up your claim, such as estimates from the repair shop or private contractor, pictures of the damage and any witness accounts that may be available to back up the claim. The better you are able to document your claim and the costs associated with it, the better your chances will be for a full settlement on the claim amount.
File all of the pertinent information with your insurance company along with a formal demand for payment of the entire amount of the claim. In the case of home and car insurance, you may be offered a settlement immediately based on the apparent damage that you may choose to accept or deny as you see fit. Keep in mind that declining the initial payment could result in your claim being delayed for a period of time while the insurance company reviews the case and the value of the damages.
If all has been handled appropriately, the insurance company will contact within 2 to 10 days to finalize the claim and settle the case. In situations where medical costs are involved, it may be in your best interests to keep the case open until all medical issues have been resolved to prevent additional costs coming up later that are denied by the insurance company because the settlement has already been logged.
If 14 days or more have passed and you still have not been contacted by the insurance company, call them and inquire about the progress being made on the claim. Don't be threatening, but remind that company that you are experiencing hardships related to the open claim and the importance of getting the issue resolved as soon as possible.