Most personal injury cases settle. Usually, this is a good thing. It means that the victim gets their money faster than if they went to trial. It also means that both parties can avoid a lengthy and expensive court case.
Once you agree to settle, some steps must be taken before receiving your settlement check.
A settlement is an official and legally binding agreement between two parties to resolve a legal dispute. Both parties agree to certain terms and conditions instead of going to court or trial.
A settlement can occur between the plaintiff and an insurance company, or the plaintiff and the defendant directly. Once the parties agree to settle, the plaintiff is issued a settlement check for the agreed amount. This may be paid in a lump sum, or in multiple payments over time. It’s common to have multiple payments over time when the settlement is a high dollar figure.
Before you receive your settlement check, your lawyer will engage in negotiation with the other side. Most personal injury lawyers are skilled negotiators with years of experience. If your lawyer doesn’t have experience negotiating, it should be a red flag.
The process of negotiation often involves calculating your estimated damages, collecting evidence, and making a demand. Sometimes your lawyer will go back and forth several times with the defendant or their insurance company before agreeing.
In personal injury cases, you are usually negotiating for money in exchange for relieving the other party of further liability for your claim.
Once both sides agree to settle, there is paperwork. This paperwork will include a settlement agreement. No two settlement agreements are the same.
However, many have provisions that:
After both sides sign the agreement, the settlement is official. Depending on when in the process the settlement occurred, it might be filed with the court.
Once the check is issued, it goes to the plaintiff’s lawyer and is held in a trust account. Before the plaintiff can receive the settlement check, the lawyer must pay any outstanding medical liens and take attorney’s fees.
A medical lien is a bit different from a medical bill. If you have healthcare insurance, your insurance company will pay most of your bill. You will pay the remainder, depending on the details of your policy. However, in personal injury cases, the insurance company has the right to collect the full amount that they paid.
For example, if you get into a car accident and undergo surgery, your bill might only be $2,500. However, if your insurance company paid $100,000, they have a right to recover that $100,000 from the defendant, just as you have a right to recover the $2,500.
Once your lawyer is issued a settlement check, they will pay these liens and outstanding bills before distributing the remainder to you. Sometimes your lawyer will also negotiate with the medical providers to reduce the cost of your bills.
Additionally, your lawyer will take their attorney’s fees before giving you the remainder. Your lawyer probably charges a contingency fee. This is when a lawyer takes a set percentage of your settlement at the end of the case.
The amount of time it takes to receive your settlement check will depend on your case. Once you reach an agreement, it can take a month or two before the money is deposited into your account. However, if your case goes through lengthy negotiations and you have many medical liens, it might take longer.
You should speak with your Portland personal injury lawyer to get an accurate idea of how long it will take before you see the money.