The results of J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S Auto Claims Satisfaction Study showed that American car owner's satisfaction on their experience with insurance claims improved on a year-over-year comparison.

The study included satisfaction on six factors, including first notice of loss, service interaction, appraisal, repair process, rental experience and settlement.

For the fifth year in a row, Auto-Owners took the top spot in overall satisfaction, receiving a score of 887 on a 1,000 point scale. Coming in second was Amica Mutual and Erie Insurance, which tied at 876 points. Automobile Club of Southern California and Country tied for the third spot at 874 points.

The results showed satisfaction by claimants increased to 852 points, up 6 points from last year. Satisfaction was reported in five of the six listed above, with settlement representing the most important when considering overall satisfaction, up nine points to 846 on a year-over-year comparison.

"As used vehicle sale prices increase, the value of the loss settlement also increases," said Jeremy Bowler, senior director of the insurance practice at J.D. Power and Associates. "According to our Power Information Network, a database of vehicle sales transactions, used-vehicle sales prices peaked in May and June of this year, averaging nearly $18,500, compared with approximately $17,700 in January of this year."

Interestingly, satisfactions in settlements have improved even though more money was given by claimants. Out of pocket costs increased $26 in 2012 on a year-over-year comparison, showing that satisfaction in settlement relies on how the claimant perceives what is fair.

"Providing exceptional customer service is an important element in driving the perception of being treated fairly," said Bowler "Claimants' perception of fairness is more than just the amount of the settlement, especially for repairable vehicles, where claimants are more focused on their vehicle being returned in its pre-accident condition.  Focusing on keeping claimants updated and quickly communicating what will be covered in the claim also have a major impact on their perceptions of how fairly they are treated."

The results of the study were provided from a survey of more than 12,508 auto insurance customers who settled a claim within the past six months.

Claimant satisfaction might be improving but the best way for car owners to avoid the experience altogether is to participate in preventative maintenance. A car's chances of needing repairs is significantly reduced when oil, fluids & chemicals are periodically changed and engine parts & mounts are monitored closely.