If you have been injured in an accident where someone else was at fault, the last thing you probably want to go through is a long, drawn out legal battle. So based on the advice of your personal injury attorney, you decide to accept the settlement offer he or she negotiated. By doing so, you expect to get the money you need to get your life back in order sooner rather than later. But how long does it actually take to get a personal injury settlement check? Keep reading to find out.
Agreeing not to take any further legal action
Before the defendant (or more likely his or her insurance company) cuts a settlement check, you must sign some important paperwork.
In it, you do one of two things. If the settlement addresses all aspects of the claim, you promise not to take additional legal action against the defendant in connection with the matter at hand. Or, if applicable, you detail any aspect(s) of the case that remain unresolved for which you still plan to seek legal recourse.
Once you have signed the paperwork, your attorney will send it to the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company. Your attorney will also submit any additional documents he or she agreed to send at this point.
What happens next?
Let’s assume for simplicity’s sake that the defendant’s insurance company is handling the settlement directly. Once it gets the signed release form detailed above, it will start processing the check. Although the insurance company is legally obligated to write the check as soon as it receives your release, administrative matters sometimes hinder this process.
In this context, you should be aware that the insurance company would not issue the check to you alone. Instead, it typically makes the check payable to both you and your personal injury lawyer. This is because your attorney has to make certain deductions before you get the check.
When it finishes processing your check, the insurance company will send the check directly to your lawyer’s office.
Use of settlement funds for lien payments
At this point, your lawyer will put the check into an escrow account. That’s where it will stay while the bank clears the funds. Once this happens, your attorney can distribute your portion of the settlement funds.
Of course, there is a catch. This is the mandatory payment of certain outstanding financial obligations called liens. These are debts associated with your current case or a separate matter. The bottom line is that your attorney cannot release your check until he or she uses some of the settlement funds to satisfy these obligations. Examples include:
- Unpaid medical costs.
- Reimbursements to your insurance company or public health care providers for your medical treatment costs related to the injury or illness involved in your case.
- Child support owed to your former spouse.
- Outstanding balances owed to prior attorneys whose services were terminated prior to hiring your current attorney and reaching a settlement (in some cases).
Payment of contingency fees and other legal costs
Even if you do not have any liens, your lawyer will still make certain deductions from your settlement check. The largest deduction is likely based on the contingency fee agreement you signed when you retained your personal injury attorney. This deduction is usually in the range of 35%-50% of the settlement.
Additional legal costs may also be subtracted from your settlement check. These include the costs of filing fees, record requests, expert witnesses, evidence collection, accident reconstruction, and other relevant expenses.
Your attorney should have stated his or her intent to deduct these costs from your settlement amount in the contract you inked to secure his or her services.
When all of this is said and done, your lawyer will send a check for the remaining amount to you at the address on file. How quickly you get it depends on several factors, but it generally takes several weeks.
Clearly, the entire process does not happen overnight. At the Law Office of Parag L. Amin P.C., however, we make every effort to help you get the compensation you deserve as quickly as possible. Do not waste another second. If you were hurt in an accident where someone else was to blame, contact us to learn how we can help you, right now.