Getting a favorable decision on a personal injury claim is exciting. After all that hard work and investigation that went into the case, a favorable decision feels earned and tells you that it was all worth it. Those medical bills you were worried about will finally be covered.
Only that isn’t always the case. As you wait for a settlement check, you could be falling further behind on bills or spending money out of pocket that was needed in another area of your life. It could take what feels like forever for the check to finally land in your checking account.
In order to help you avoid this kind of disappointment, we’ve set out to tackle what you should know about the settlement check process. We’ll start by discussing what is meant by a settlement in the first place. Then we’ll look at the necessary steps you have to take to receive a settlement check. Then to finish we’ll discuss if there are any ways to speed up the settlement check process.
What Is a Settlement?
Did you know that only four percent of personal injury cases reach the resolution of the trial? Some are thrown out for various reasons but a large number of personal injury cases don’t reach the resolution of the trial because they are settled.
A legal settlement is a kind of agreement that both parties come to outside of the courtroom. It is a formal agreement between two or more parties caught up in a dispute that ends the dispute, typically dismissing the court case. In some situations, a settlement can be reached before a court case is started by contacting the opposing party and informing them of the plan. In this situation, the case wouldn’t be dismissed because it was never put forward in the first place. However, this is a more unique situation than the vast majority of settlements.
One reason that a settlement can be reached prior to initiating a civil trial is due to how expensive they are. Trials eat up a lot of time and resources and in some situations it simply costs less to settle the case.
A settlement is not the same as being found guilty or having the courts force compensation from a party. When this happens, there is a record of that verdict. But a settlement doesn’t need to be disclosed to the public, so it is possible to settle out of court for an undisclosed amount. This can work as another layer of protection for companies who are looking to avoid media attention on their practices; an employee raises issues that would look bad in the press or in the court, so they settle quickly.
But even settling quickly can take more time than you expect. Assuming the settlement is already agreed on and all you need now is to be given your money, it can still be a slow process thanks to government bureaucracy. The system is often overwhelmed at how many settlement checks need to be processed each year, so delays are a fairly common occurrence,
What Are the Necessary Steps to Receive a Settlement Check?
Once a settlement has been agreed upon, you may expect the check to come immediately. However, there are still several steps that must be taken. These will slow down how quickly you can get your hands on the settlement check, unfortunately.
You may find yourself in a position where you are to receive multiple settlement checks. One way this happens is when the other party doesn’t have the resources to pay the whole settlement, so they create a payment plan instead. However, you shouldn’t have to go through the following steps for every payment, just in the beginning.
- Signing Documents: An Order of Settlement will be issued, all paperwork of which has to be completed within thirty to sixty days. It’s important to take the time to properly read and digest this document fully before signing as it affects other things like your ability to seek additional damages down the road.
- Insurance Company: Chances are good that it will be the other party’s insurance that is responsible for paying the settlement. They require the release, one of the settlement documents you signed, but then they are supposed to release your check. Sometimes it takes longer due to the internal workings of the company in question.
- Deposit: The insurance company’s check should arrive to your attorney, who would deposit it and wait for the bank to clear it. Depending on yany outstanding liens you may owe, it could be disbursed sooner or later.
- Legal Fees: Before you receive your check, your attorney will need to deduct legal fees and costs that are owed. If you paid out of pocket for their services, this may not be a necessary step. When you hire an attorney, you should sign a payment agreement that states whether or not you will provide them with a percentage of any settlements.
- Settlement Check: Once the rest is finished, the money is yours.
Is There Any Way to Speed Up the Process?
There is not a lot that can be done to speed up the settlement process itself because so much of it requires other entities and bureaucracy. But there is a couple of ways that might result in you receiving a check earlier:
- Your attorney can start to prepare for a settlement once they get the sense that a settlement is coming. Rather than waiting, they prepare the paperwork and the like to be ready ahead of time.
- Expedited mailings can be used to speed up how quickly documents travel to the necessary parties.
- You can pay off or prepare to pay any liens you owe or may seek a partial distribution of funds.
Should I Work with an Attorney?
Absolutely. Remember that a settlement arises out of an issue like a personal injury case. You could try to represent yourself, but historically this has been a recipe for disaster. That’s why you’re better off working with an experienced attorney that can advise you throughout the process, prepare the necessary documents for a settlement, and help you through all the steps required to get the money you deserve.