You have reached a settlement in your personal injury case, the final dollar amount of the settlement has been agreed upon, and you have bills to pay or other things to do with your settlement money. How long will it take for you to receive that check? In general, it usually takes three to six weeks for you to receive your personal injury settlement check — however, there are a number of factors at play that can affect the amount of time between reaching a settlement and receiving your check.
Signing the Release Form and Related Documents
The first step before receiving your personal injury settlement check involves signing the release form to settle your claim. Signing that release form indicates that you will pursue no more legal action against the defendant(s) in regard to the claim. In exchange for the settlement money, you are letting the claim go. The process to release your settlement check will not begin until that form (and any other required documents) has been signed and returned to the appropriate parties by your attorney.
In some instances, the defendant’s insurance company may propose their own release form or insist on specific language that your attorney does not recommend that you sign. In such instances there may be multiple revisions before your attorney and the defendants are satisfied with the language on the release form. This can add some additional delay to receiving your settlement check. Cases involving minors or estates may be complex and thus the paperwork will not be as simple. There may also be other related documents that must be completed before your settlement check can be processed and released.
Internal Processing by the Defendant’s Insurance Company
The next stage in processing your personal injury settlement involves internal processing by the defendant’s insurance company, which is something that neither you nor your attorney has any control over. In some instances, clerical errors can cause issues. If you feel that this part of the process is taking longer than it should, you should contact your attorney. Note that the settlement check will be typically made out to both you and your attorney but will be sent to your attorney.
Attorney Deposits the Check in an Escrow or Trust Account
Once your personal injury settlement check has been released to your attorney, he or she will place it in an escrow or trust account while waiting for the check to clear. How long it takes the check to clear depends in part on how large the check is. You can expect this part of the process to take several days.
Paying off Liens
Once your personal injury settlement check has cleared, all liens (unpaid debts) must be paid off before it can be released to you. Here are some examples of typical liens involved with personal injury settlements:
- Unpaid bills owed to your medical providers
- Unpaid child support
- Your health insurance company if they paid for medical treatment related to your injury
- Medicare if it covered medical care related to your injury
It is very important that these liens be paid from your settlement money right away, or you may face serious penalties and additional fees. It is in your best interest to pay any liens immediately with your settlement funds. If you have any concerns about possible liens, contact your attorney. Also, remember that your attorney may be able to negotiate the final cost of paying your liens but that may delay the final release of your settlement funds.
Deduction of Legal Fees and Costs
In addition to the liens mentioned above, your attorney will deduct all legal fees, out-of-pocket expenses, and other related costs from the settlement (including their percentage of the settlement as agreed upon when they took your case), then release the remaining balance to you in the form of a check from the attorney’s office. Note that the legal fees and costs deducted from your settlement can include costs related to expert witnesses, medical records, depositions, obtaining copies of evidence, court reporting costs, filing fees, and similar actions. You should feel free to ask for an itemized statement of all legal fees and costs related to your claim.
While the average amount of time it takes to receive a settlement check in a personal injury case is between three to six weeks, there are several steps to the process where delays may occur. There can be issues with signing the release form and related paperwork, delays on the part of the defendant’s insurance company, and the necessary time required for the check to clear. In addition, there may be time involved with negotiating liens and paying them off.
Contact Donaghue & Labrum
If you or a loved one has been injured and are thinking about filing a personal injury lawsuit, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. The skilled personal injury trial lawyers at Donaghue & Labrum can help you find out what your options are and will aggressively represent you both in court and out. With decades of experience in personal injury practice, we will fight to get you the compensation that the law says you deserve — whether that involves an in-court trial or an out-of-court settlement. Contact us today for a free consultation!