Everything You Need to Know About Settlement Checks
Personal Injury Lawsuit Settlement Checks
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Everything You Need to Know About Settlement Checks
If you’re thinking “my settlement check is taking forever,” you’re not alone. Waiting for your check can be incredibly frustrating after months or years of fighting for it. We understand that delays and poor communication happen all too often so we’ve put together a guide of everything you need to know about settlement checks.
Receiving your settlement check marks the successful completion of your personal injury claim, but there are many steps that need to happen to accomplish this. Working closely with your lawyer and maintaining good communication throughout the settlement process can help ensure there are no surprises when you do receive your check.
What Is a Settlement Check?
The general idea is that when you are hurt due to someone else’s intentional act or negligence, you should not have to pay for the consequences of their behavior. While there is no way to roll back the clock on your injury, receiving your settlement check is an attempt to make you whole again.
It can take months or even years to prove your claim and receive your settlement check. If you’ve suffered a personal injury, the first thing you should do is record all the details of the incident and notify any relevant authorities. In the case of a severe injury, you should contact a lawyer as they can greatly increase your chances of a successful settlement.
What Are the Different Types of Settlements?
Lump Sum Settlement
- This is the most common type where you receive all of the settlement funds in one payment.
- This type of settlement can be useful in situations where the amount is particularly high as it may be helpful for money management purposes to not receive it all at once. In these situations, receiving a partial lump-sum combined with recurring structured payments may be optimal, but you should talk to an accountant and your lawyer regarding your specific case.
What Is My Settlement Check For?
Your settlement check is the legal system’s attempt to right the wrong that was done to you via monetary compensation. It also ensures that outstanding bills resulting from the injury are settled.
Specific costs resulting from the injury for the past, present, and future. These can include:
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
More subjective and may require additional evidence.
- Loss of consortium – loss or partial loss of companionship from a relationship if you or your spouse is injured or killed in the accident
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress
- Punitive damages are additional fines for particularly bad behavior
The settlement check also goes towards outstanding liens or debts resulting from the injury. A lien is how third parties who provided you with services after your accident can recoup their expenses.
These can include:
- Doctor and hospital bills
- Medicare and Medicaid
- Workers’ compensation insurance
- Your health and auto insurance providers if they advanced you coverage
- Court fees
- Lawyer’s fees
- Expert witnesses
- Private investigators
Your lawyer will be able to explain all of these as they are relevant to your case and issue you a detailed account of any outstanding balances that will be subtracted from your settlement check. Keep track of all your expenses and be sure that your settlement check covers them.
How Do I Get a Settlement Check After an Injury?
In order to receive a settlement check after an injury, you must follow these steps:
Make a Demand
The first thing you should do is receive medical treatment and record all the details of your care. You will need to understand the scope of your injuries in order to make an accurate demand.
Assessing what your current and future needs will be can be challenging and you should enlist legal and medical professionals to help you. In the case of a serious injury, you should wait until medical treatment is complete so you can accurately calculate your expenses.
Negotiate a Settlement
It can be tempting to accept a smaller settlement amount in the beginning as you just want the whole thing to be over with. Patience and having an experienced lawyer advising you here is key as they can prevent you from being tricked into accepting a lowball offer that won’t cover your long-term expenses.
Be sure to select a lawyer who has experience negotiating personal injury settlements as they will know how to deal with any scenarios that arise such as:
- severe injuries requiring long term care
- pre existing conditions
- cases where fault is being disputed
- multiple defendant parties involved
If you are unable to agree upon a fair settlement amount, you may end up going to trial. In this case, if you are successful, you will be awarded a judgment instead of a settlement check.
Taking your case to trial can be a lengthy process and skilled negotiations can help you get compensated for your injuries faster. The key to successful negotiations comes from being patient and being represented by a law firm that has a reputation for being strong negotiators. You want the insurance company to know that your lawyers aren’t afraid to go to trial if they won’t offer you a fair settlement.
Reach a Settlement
The majority of cases for personal injury are settled through negotiation instead of going to court. Unfortunately, many of these cases settle for a quick, low offer that ends up being insufficient to cover future expenses arising from the injury. Having a trial-ready lawyer who is skilled in negotiating will make the insurance company take your claim seriously and help avoid lowball offers.
If your claim is resolved through negotiation, then you will typically receive your settlement check shortly after the resolution of the negotiations. You will have to sign an insurance release agreement and complete any required paperwork prior to them processing your settlement check. The release agreement is legally binding and means that you can’t bring any future claims against them regarding this injury in exchange for the settlement amount they are paying you. More details are explained in the FAQ section below.
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Settlement Check FAQs
How Long Can a Lawyer Hold Your Settlement Check?
We understand that at the end of months or years pursuing your personal injury claim, you are rightfully eager to get your hands on your settlement check and move on with your life.
Your lawyer most likely also wants to get your settlement check over to you as quickly as possible. However, he does have a legal obligation to settle any liens before he can release it.
A few reasons your lawyer might still be holding your settlement check:
- Negotiating medical expenses – your lawyer can sometimes negotiate lower payments leaving you with a larger settlement amount.
- If any government agency such as Medicare / Medicaid was involved, these negotiations can take substantially longer.
- Settling any additional outstanding expenses or liens.
In the event that medical billing negotiations are prolonged, your lawyer may be able to send a portion of the settlement check in advance.
They don’t get paid until you do, so you can trust that your interests are aligned with theirs and they want to get this sorted out properly and in a timely manner.
How Long Does a Settlement Check Take to Clear?
Upon receiving the check from the insurance company or defendant, your lawyer will deposit it in a trust or escrow account until it clears. It typically takes two to three business days for a settlement check to clear, but larger settlement amounts may take up to one business week. Once it clears, they will deduct their fee and any additional expenses or liens and then transfer the balance to you.
How Long After Mediation Will I Get My Money?
If you are being represented by a lawyer, the most accurate answer to this question would come from them. Sometimes a timeline will be specified in the release form agreement so you can reference this. If the other party is an insurance company, then it depends on how quickly they send out the check, which on average is one to two weeks, but can take longer for several reasons.
- Insurance companies are large organizations and move slowly, particularly if a large natural disaster has just occurred and they’ve had a surge of claims.
- Someone could get sick or leave for vacation and forget to pass your paperwork along to the next department.
- Paying out your claim is just one of many for them, while for you it’s holding up your entire life, so they may not move as fast as you would like.
Ways you can speed up the process:
Respond to any communications from your lawyer as quickly as possible. If there are any documents that can be prepared in advance, take care of these so that they’re ready to file/send as soon as possible.
Include a send-by date in your settlement agreement. Typically the check will be sent to your lawyer, where once it clears, they will factor in their fee and any outstanding expenses and then send the remainder to you.
Depending on how complicated the case is, the time frame can vary, but you should receive your settlement check within two to six weeks.
How Can I Track My Settlement Check?
If you have been successful in settling your case, then the first thing you will want to know is when you will get your check and how you can track it to make sure it gets to you as quickly as possible. So how do you know when your settlement check is sent to your attorney? The insurance company is required by law to send a letter to you when they send the settlement check to your lawyer.
Your attorney may also notify you upon receipt of the check and let you know that they have deposited it into a trust account until it clears. The best way to track your settlement check is by keeping an eye out for the letter from the insurance company and having an open line of communication with your attorney. They can also let you know if there are any outstanding debts or liens that might take longer to deal with and give you an estimated timeline.
Any Additional Questions?
We hope you have found this article helpful in understanding the settlement process and how you can go about obtaining your settlement check. If you have been injured and are in the process of making a claim, we invite you to take advantage of our years of experience practicing personal injury law.
We are available 24/7 and happy to answer any questions you may have regarding the strengths and weaknesses of your claim. Get your free, no-obligation case evaluation today and learn the next steps to take to receive the compensation you deserve.