For many personal injury victims, compensation from an insurance settlement cannot come soon enough. While you wait for your lawyer and the insurance company to agree on the value of your claim, medical bills and other expenses continue to pile up.
However, the are multiple steps in the settlement check process that must occur before victims receive compensation. Friedman, Domiano and Smith’s experienced Cleveland personal injury lawyers discuss these steps and answer common questions about the process.
If you were injured by another’s negligence, we are here to help you file a claim and pursue full compensation for the damages you suffered. Our services are provided on contingency, so there are no upfront fees.
We are ready to take your call to discuss your claim: 216-621-0070.
What is a Settlement in a Personal Injury Case?
While a small number of cases make it to trial, most personal injury claims are resolved through an insurance settlement, which is an agreement between the injured victim and the insurance company. The victim receives compensation for losses and damages while the insurance company is released from any future liability for the injury.
Many settlements are reached before a lawsuit is even filed. There are also a fair number of settlements that are agreed to after a lawsuit is filed. That is why injured victims should find an attorney with courtroom experience who is prepared to file a lawsuit. Sometimes filing a lawsuit is the extra push needed to convince an insurance company to increase its settlement offer.
Civil trials are costly and take a long time to complete. That is one of the main reasons why most personal injury cases do not make it inside of a courtroom.
6 Steps of the Settlement Check Process in Ohio
These are the five steps that take place after a settlement is agreed to between both parties:
1. Agreeing on the Type of Settlement
There are two types of settlements:
- Lump sum settlements – If you agree to a lump sum settlement, the entire amount of the settlement will be paid at once. Most personal injury settlements involve a lump sum payment.
- Structured settlements – These are settlements that are paid out over a certain period instead of all at once. When victims expect to have significant future expenses, they may choose a structured settlement instead of a lump sum. Victims may want to hold off on collecting all the money to make sure it will still be there in the future. Structured settlements are also common in cases involving minor children. The settlement funds are put into a trust and paid out according to the terms of the structured settlement.
2. Signing Settlement Documents
Once the victim determines the type of settlement, the at-fault party must prepare the settlement documents. One of the most important sections of any settlement agreement is the release from liability. Typically, these sections address three issues:
- Releasing the at-fault party and his or her insurance company from future liability for the injury and accident
- The at-fault party and his or her insurance company not admitting fault for the victim’s damages
- Releasing the defendant and insurance company from the legal claim, which means your signature and acceptance of the settlement means you agree not to pursue additional damages from the at-fault party
The release section could be long if your case is complex. Otherwise, this section could be relatively short.
Your attorney is going to review the settlement document that was sent by the insurance company to make sure all terms and conditions are in your best interest. These terms and conditions include:
- Rights and obligations of both parties
- Legal issues that have been settled
- Protection of confidential or sensitive information
- How to resolve disputes about the settlement
If there is a problem, your attorney will work with the at-fault insurance company and their attorneys to resolve it.
Once your attorney makes sure the settlement is in your best interest, you can sign it. You must do this in the presence of a notary public.
3. Insurance Company Sends the Settlement Check
After you sign the settlement, it will be sent to the insurance company. The insurance company can then process the settlement check. They have a legal obligation to write the check as soon as they receive the release, but there could be delays.
The check will be made payable to you and your attorney. This is because funds must be deducted from the check before you receive it. The check will be sent directly to your attorney’s office.
4. Settlement Check Arrives at Your Attorney’s Office
When the check arrives at your attorney’s office, it will be deposited into an escrow account. It will stay in this account until the funds from the check have been cleared by the bank. This step is necessary to make sure the insurance company has the money to pay your settlement.
5. Paying Any Outstanding Liens Along With Legal Fees
Assuming the check clears while it is in the escrow account, the next step is to pay off any outstanding liens and take care of your attorney’s costs.
Liens are debts that you may have related to your personal injury claim. These liens must be paid off, otherwise the creditors can file a civil lawsuit against you to recover their money.
Personal injury victims often have liens for medical expenses – they agreed to these liens in exchange for medical providers waiting to collect payment. Many victims cannot pay all their medical expenses up front while waiting for a settlement.
Victims may have liens with health insurance companies; if victims used health insurance to cover their costs while their attorney was negotiating an injury settlement.
Victims who owe child support will have the money they owe deducted from their settlement. If another attorney handled your case before your current lawyer, the first lawyer must be paid for the work he or she did on your case.
Your lawyer must also deduct his or her legal fees and costs from your settlement. When you hired your attorney, he or she likely discussed payment for his or her services. This would have been stated in the contract you signed.
Some of the legal costs that may be deducted from a personal injury settlement include the cost of:
- Filing fees
- Expert witnesses
- Accident reconstruction
- Collecting evidence
- Requests for records
- And more
6. Settlement Check Gets Sent to You
Once liens and legal costs are taken care of, the law firm will cut a check to you for the rest of your settlement.
When Will I Get My Personal Injury Settlement Check?
Even though a settlement has been agreed on, it could take months to get your personal injury settlement check. However, each case is unique, and some victims may get their check sooner than others. It depends on a variety of factors, including whether there are any delays.
When Could There be a Delay in Receiving My Settlement Check?
There are many things that could delay the receipt of a settlement check, such as:
- Delays with paperwork, such as a missed signature
- There is an estate involved in the claim
- There is a minor involved the claim
- The insurance company that is processing the claim is in a different state than the insurance company cutting the check
- Disputes about the release of liability
- Your lawyer negotiates the amount of your liens
- Clerical mistakes with the insurance company or your lawyer
- Documents from the claims adjuster were not forwarded to you, such as if the adjuster fell ill or went on vacation
- The supervisor who has the responsibility of signing off on the settlement is not available
What if I Need the Settlement Money Sooner For Medical Bills?
Many injured victims are in desperate need of compensation from the settlement, especially so they can pay for medical treatment. In this situation, you may be able to obtain litigation funding, also known as legal funding.
Litigation funding is compensation from your settlement that is paid out before the settlement is finalized. You could receive a portion of what you are expecting to receive in the settlement.
The process for obtaining litigation funding simply involves an application to a litigation funding company. The company reviews the application to determine if they will award compensation. If your application is approved, you are likely to receive 10-20 percent of your expected settlement.
It is important to note your attorney must approve the application before you can receive compensation. The litigation funding company will be paid back from your settlement. The litigation funding company will place a lien on your settlement.
Is There Any Way to Speed Up the Process?
One of the most important steps for speeding up the process is hiring an experienced lawyer who will ensure all the steps in the process are completed efficiently and correctly. For example, a missing signature on a document could cause weeks of delays. That is why it is vital that your attorney has strong attention to detail.
At Friedman, Domiano and Smith, we have strong attention to detail. We know this is a difficult time and we want to make sure you have the compensation you need as soon as possible.
How Can I Track My Settlement Check?
Your lawyer should update you about the process and where everything stands. At our firm, we are committed to promptly responding to your questions, so you know what is going on.
Call Friedman, Domiano and Smith After a Personal Injury
We know injured victims often have many questions about their rights and the value of their injuries and damages. We are here to help, as we have helped countless injured victims in Northeast Ohio for more than 40 years.
Call us to schedule your free legal consultation. We have the resources and experience to take on the insurance company and advocate for full compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and other damages.
Our firm has obtained millions on behalf of our clients, and there is no financial risk with our services because we represent victims on contingency. That means the initial consultation is free and there are no fees for taking your case or while we work to secure the compensation you need.
Friedman, Domiano and Smith. Experienced Lawyers. No Upfront Fees. Call 216-621-0070.
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