How Long Can a Lawyer Hold Your Settlement Check?
When your case finally settles, you will probably want to ask how long your lawyer can hold your settlement check. After several months or years of legal proceedings, you deserve to get paid, especially if you have bills piling up.
When you finally reach a settlement, there are a few more things you and your lawyer need to do before the defendant gives your lawyer the check. Even so, once the check reaches your lawyer, there are a few obligations they must attend to before they give you the final balance.
Factors That Affect the Delivery Time of Your Settlement Check
Depending on the details of your case or your settlement agreement, the actual time it takes for your check to be delivered varies. While many settlements finalize within six weeks, some settlements may take several months to resolve. Here are some of the reasons why your settlement check may arrive later than expected.
The first form you have to sign to get your settlement is a release form. This form is a legally binding agreement stating that you will not pursue further legal action against the defendant for your specific case. Most defendants or insurance companies won’t give you a settlement check unless you sign the release form. However, if you have concurrent lawsuits against the same defendant for a different matter, you don’t have to stop pursuing those claims.
The release form must state which claims you plan to release the defendant or insurance company from. Usually, your lawyer reads through the release form before you sign it to make sure that the terms are fair. Keep in mind that you may have to sign multiple release forms depending on the number of parties involved in the case. If the defendant has an insurance company handling your claim, you may have to sign two release forms; one for the defendant and one for the insurance company.
In rare cases, you may experience delays if you or the defendant disagree with the provisions of the release form. This usually requires the release form to be redrafted.
Every state has different laws regarding the amount of time a defendant has to issue a settlement payment once you sign the release form. Unfortunately, some organizations use this to delay the processing of your settlement check as much as possible. For example, a defendant or insurance company may take the full time given by the law to process your settlement check once they receive your release form.
This means that if you live in a state where the legal processing time is 30 days, the defendant or their insurance company may take 30 days to formally accept your release form.
In most cases, the defendant sends the check to your lawyer. Once your lawyer receives the check, they usually hold it in a trust or escrow account until it clears. This process takes around 5-7 days for larger settlement checks.
Once the check clears, your lawyer deducts their share to cover the cost of their legal services. They also pay any outstanding liens or bills for you. After your lawyer honors all financial obligations regarding your case, they send the check to you by mail or wire transfer.
Paying Liens and Bills
If you have a personal injury case, chances are you need to pay outstanding medical bills or liens. As soon as your case settles, you have a legal obligation to pay these bills. Once your lawyer receives the settlement check from the defendant, they usually use the proceeds to pay any liens on your settlement for you.
It’s usually easy to settle liens, unless the government has a lien against your settlement. If you have any liens from a government-funded program like Medicare or Medicaid, it takes months to resolve them.
Your lawyer also uses your settlement check to resolve any bills related to your lawsuit. This includes medical tests, private investigations, expert witness testimony, and more. Most of these bills have a fixed amount, but your lawyer might have to negotiate a payment for other services.
While your lawyer cannot release your settlement check until they resolve liens and bills associated with your case, it’s usually best to be patient so you don’t end up paying more than necessary.
What About Structured Settlement Payments?
In rare instances, a defendant might pay through a structured settlement. Unlike a regular settlement that pays the settlement amount in full, a structured settlement is when a defendant pays the settlement amount over time. These types of settlements usually occur when the case involves a minor or if there was a catastrophic injury that requires extensive ongoing medical care.
In structured settlements, the defendant or insurance company usually sets up an annuity for the victim, which pays out on a fixed schedule. If you and the defendant agree to a structured settlement, make sure to ask your lawyer about your settlement payout. Agreeing to a structured settlement without carefully reviewing the terms may add unexpected delays, risks, and financial complications.
How to Speed Up the Delivery of Your Settlement Check
If you need your settlement check as soon as possible, there are a few ways to speed up the process.
Once you get close to a settlement, start drafting a release form ahead of time so it’s ready once you reach an agreement. Next, you should work with your lawyer to figure out your liens and bills while the defendant processes the release form. Finally, make sure you respond to your lawyer’s requests quickly to avoid delays.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need a portion of your settlement while it’s pending, ask your lawyer if they can advance a portion to you. Your lawyer isn’t obligated to provide an advance, but they may do so as a kind gesture.
Can’t Wait for Your Settlement Check? Consider a Lawsuit Loan
If you need your settlement check and your lawyer cannot give you an advance on your pending settlement, consider applying for a lawsuit loan from Nova Legal Funding.
A lawsuit loan, also known as pre-settlement funding, is a cash advance given to a plaintiff in exchange for a portion of their settlement. Unlike a regular loan, a lawsuit loan doesn’t require a credit check or income verification. Instead, we examine applicants based on the strength of their case. Most importantly, our loans are risk-free, meaning that you don’t pay us back unless you win your case.
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