Where Do I Sign My Settlement Papers?

Where Do I Sign My Settlement Papers?

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Where Do I Sign My Settlement Papers?

Winning a personal injury claim or lawsuit comes with a huge sense of relief. The next step usually involves signing a settlement agreement form. This form, also known as a Release of Settlement Agreement, confirms that you've reached a settlement agreement with the other party. As a result, you agree not to pursue further claims against them. 

Knowing where, when, and how to sign your settlement papers is an essential step in closing the case and securing the compensation you need and deserve. This article discusses two common ways of signing settlement papers. 

If You Reach a Settlement Without an Attorney

If you win a claim or lawsuit without an attorney, the other party's insurance company will send the settlement agreement to you, usually via mail. This is a legally-binding document that explains the details of the agreement. You'll then be required to sign the agreement. 

The insurance company or defendant will then notify the court that you've reached a settlement agreement with them. As a result, the court will ask them to process all required paperwork within 30 to 60 days after reaching the agreement. The exact timeline varies from state to state. 

Release forms usually cover various aspects of the case in detail. For example, a typical Release form contains the following information:

Release of Liability

You'll be required to confirm that you've released the other party from any liability involving the injury in question. This also confirms that you will not pursue legal action against the other party even if you discover additional reasons to sue them. For example, if you sue the other party for your broken bones and then sign the Release, you may not sue them later if you discover that you also suffered brain damage due to the same injury. 

Denial of Fault

The Release form may also mention that the defendant or insurance company does not admit fault even though they agree to pay the settlement amount. 

Release of Claims

You'll not file any additional claims other than those already highlighted in the Release Form. This applies even if you later discover additional and legitimate reasons to file a claim against the insurance company or defendant for the same injury. Once the agreement has been signed and returned to the parties involved, you'll receive your check via mail. 

While this seems like an easy process, many personal injury victims end up being frustrated when they eventually discover how much they're entitled to as compensation after deducting all expenses involved. This is where most injury victims wish they had hired an attorney. 

If You Reach a Settlement With an Attorney

When you hire a personal injury attorney from Moran & Morgan to file the claim or lawsuit on your behalf, this decision alone significantly increases your chances of settling. Such an attorney understands the amount you deserve as compensation for your injury and how much you'll earn after all deductions.

An attorney will discuss the settlement offer with you in advance to avoid disappointments or surprises. For example, you'll understand the kind of deductions to expect before receiving the insurance company's check. Some common deductions from a personal injury settlement include: 

Personal Injury Liens

When you win a settlement in a personal injury case, other parties may place a personal injury lien on the amount. A lien is a legal right to someone's assets. 

For example, your medical provider may place a medical lien against your injury settlement. This comes as a complete shock for most personal injury victims because they don't expect to pay medical providers if their insurance companies have already settled the medical expenses. 

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  • Why Do Medical Providers Claim Medical Liens on Injury Settlements? 

    In their defense, the other party might argue that the injury victim is 'double-dipping.' Here's why: 

    Suppose you claim medical expenses as part of the damages from the injury sustained due to someone else's negligence, and you win the claim. In that case, you'll be compensated for the medical expenses even if you have medical insurance covering the medical costs cited in the claim.

    For this reason, medical providers will want to deduct a portion of your claim. In their defense, they'll claim that medical providers, such as doctors or surgeons, don't make money in any other way other than providing mandatory emergency care to patients and deserve to be rewarded for their efforts. This process of deducting payment from a personal injury settlement is known as subrogation. 

    Subrogation laws vary from state to state. For instance, in Georgia, an insurance company cannot place a subrogation claim against your settlement if the settlement amount is less than all economic and non-economic losses. This means they can't claim part of your settlement if you're undergoing medical treatment for the injury or any other qualifying reason.

    This further explains the importance of working with an experienced personal injury attorney to avoid the disappointment and heartbreak that comes with realizing that a certain portion of your settlement is subject to subrogation. An experienced personal injury attorney from Morgan & Morgan can navigate state and federal subrogation laws, protecting your settlement as a result. 

    The attorney will file a waiver of subrogation to prevent the other party from deducting your settlement. But if not possible to file the waiver, an experienced personal injury lawyer can also help negotiate the subrogation amount on your behalf, keeping it as low as possible. Luckily, most insurance companies are always willing to negotiate. 

    But they can only negotiate when there are valid reasons to believe that it's reasonable to settle for less than what they may be eligible for. Again, this requires the experience of a personal injury attorney to navigate the complex processes and establish the best legal strategy to protect your settlement. 

    Legal Strategies to Avoid or Reduce a Medical Lien 

    When a medical provider or insurance company places a medical lien against your claim, your attorney can negotiate the lien based on the following reasons. 

    Your attorney will evaluate the amount already paid towards your medical bills. This could be in the form of out-of-pocket expenses to settle the cost of each service. You shouldn't be charged twice for the same service. But even with that in mind, some medical providers may file erroneous liens, forcing you to pay for something you don't owe.

    Some medical providers may place medical liens on services that don't even relate to your injury. For example, if you required leg surgery after suffering several broken bones in your leg, this procedure could be entirely related to the injury. However, if you needed an unrelated service such as a flu shot, your injury settlement shouldn't cover this cost. 

    Double Charges
    You shouldn't pay twice for the same service. Unfortunately, this is not something many injuries victims understand, especially if they've suffered severe injuries, such as a brain injury. An experienced attorney should evaluate the medical lien, identify duplicate charges, and notify the other party about it. 

    Your attorney can also negotiate a medical lien based on hardship. This mostly happens if paying a medical lien could subject you to extreme hardship. 

    The Case of Deborah Shank as an Example
    In 2000, a Walmart employee Deborah Shank suffered a serious brain injury when a truck hit her car. Her family reached a $417,000 settlement with the other driver's insurance company. 

    Walmart then sued Deborah, who worked as a shelf stocker with the multibillion company, for the $470,000 they had spent on her medical care. Debrah had Walmart Healthcare at the time of the accident. 

    After public outrage, Walmart then dropped their medical lien against Deborah's settlement amount. It was argued that Walmart was a multi-billion company, yet it decided to pursue a claim against a mother of three, who needed long-term care after the accident. The medical lien could have left Deborah penniless. 

    Unpaid Child Support
    Unpaid child support can also be garnished from your injury settlement. In addition, this amount can also influence your income and future child support calculations. To understand your legal options, you'll need to work with an experienced attorney. 

    Attorney Fees
    Hiring a personal injury attorney may seem expensive initially, but this decision comes with many benefits. At Morgan & Morgan, we provide our services on a contingency basis, meaning you don't pay us anything unless we win the case for you. 

    But not every law firm that offers a contingent payment system will work for you. The main purpose of this payment option is to grant you access to legal services that would otherwise be too expensive. In addition, it works best for law firms that have powerful legal resources to pursue your claim. 

  • How Does a Contingent Payment Work?

    To further understand the importance and benefits of a contingent payment system, let's discuss the process of pursuing a claim. Some claims are quite straightforward. For example, when another driver hits your car from behind, and you suffer multiple injuries, including whiplash, it might be much easier to prove the at-fault driver's negligence.

    On the other hand, let's assume you have a product liability claim against a product manufacturer. In that case, it's much more difficult to prove negligence if you decide to pursue the claim without an attorney. This is because, to prove negligence, you'll need to hire experts to provide their opinion based on their experience. This could mean weeks, months, or even years of research, depending on the case's complexity. 

    Even if a law firm offers a contingent payment structure but lacks the required resources to do whatever it takes to pursue your claim, working with such a law firm won't yield the results you need. At Morgan & Morgan, we are the country's largest personal injury law firm. We've invested in state-of-the-art legal resources and established strong relationships with experts in multiple industries across the country. Whether it's a case of premises liability, product liability, medical malpractice, or any other complex matter, we'll always develop the right strategy to pursue your claim without running out of resources. 

    Another risk of working with a law firm that lacks powerful resources to pursue your claim is the possibility of settling for a lowball offer just to close the case. By now, you probably understand the various parties that could claim part of your settlement, and the last thing you want is to settle for an amount that will leave you with almost nothing to show after winning the claim. 

    This also explains why you need an attorney or law firm that looks beyond the financial benefit of pursuing a claim. Instead, you need an attorney who genuinely cares about your well-being even after the case is closed. Such an attorney will consider all expenses involved in your case, including past, current, and future medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of wages, and other relevant damages. 

  • Trust Morgan & Morgan With Your Personal Injury Case 

    Winning thousands or even millions of dollars as settlement for a personal injury claim doesn't mean you'll pocket the same amount. Other than the basic and expected expenses, your happiness could be short-lived when you discover that your settlement has been reduced to almost nothing by other parties. 

    The saddest thing about it is that the deductions are usually made before the final amount is sent to you. Although you may not avoid certain expenses entirely, a personal injury attorney can always help you limit the deductions.

    You'll also make better decisions when you have an attorney by your side. But, most importantly, you'll have realistic expectations when your final settlement arrives in your mail. 

    Contact Morgan & Morgan to Fight for You

    At Morgan & Morgan, we are always honest with our clients regarding what to expect from their cases because we care. This is the kind of honesty you need from an attorney to pursue your claim. So if you or your loved one has a personal injury case against a negligent party, don't attempt to pursue the claim without an attorney. Instead, call us today at 877-607-1071 or contact us via our online form, and we'll discuss your options free of charge. 

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