What Happens After You Win a Personal Injury Settlement?

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Settlement Check Process

The final step following a successful personal injury claim is receiving the awarded compensation either by a settlement or jury verdict. Like most things in law, there’s no one answer that applies to every situation regarding disbursement, however after your claim has been resolved the settlement check process follows a similar timeline. Read more to understand the process of receiving a settlement check letter and some of the exceptions to this process for certain claims.

Settlement Check Timeline - the Process

When the insurance company for the other party agrees to a settlement, you should receive a check approximately three weeks after the filing of all settlement papers. This means that the other party has essentially accepted responsibility for causing your injuries and there is nothing left to argue. However, the defendant in a court case has the right to file an appeal. If the party to your lawsuit exercises this right, you may have to wait for an additional one to two years to receive the funds from your settlement if you’re successful a second time.

In either situation, the lawyers representing both parties will inform the court that the parties have agreed to a settlement. Upon receipt, a judge issues a document called an Order of Settlement. Both parties must then complete all required paperwork within 30 or 60 days. The exact timeline depends on the rules imposed by the county and court. The Release is the most important of all settlement documents and has the most impact on the process of receiving a settlement check.

How Are Settlements Paid Out

We understand the stress a car accident or other personal injury accidents can cause, not to mention the medical bills, and medical expenses from your health insurance company that begin to pile up. We understand how important and the need for good information on how car accident settlement or personal injury settlement are pay and when.

The following is how settlement proceeds are paid out for your accident claim:

Signing Release and Other Documents

The defense attorney in the case prepares a document called a release that outlines the terms and conditions of the settlement. It can be as short as a single paragraph or as long as 15 pages. It’s important to understand that some defense attorneys deliberately make the Release as long and complex as possible to try to delay the paying of your settlement. However, you can feel confident that your personal injury attorney from Raphaelson & Levine will review the Release very carefully to determine if any part of it is objectionable.

If your attorney and the other party’s attorney can’t agree on the terms of the Release, a judge will need to get involved. We do everything in our power to avoid this since it slows down the payment of your settlement. After your attorney approves of the Release, it goes to you for a signature. You will need to sign the form in the presence of a notary public. We caution you to read the Release carefully and to ask your attorney about anything you don’t understand. Your signature indicates acceptance of the terms, which means that you can’t petition to change them later.

Insurance Company Processes Release and Cuts Check

The insurance company for the other party has a legal obligation to write you a check after it has received your signed Release and all other required forms. Typically, insurers make the check payable to you and your personal injury attorney and send it directly to the law firm. This usually happens within three weeks but delays due to a clerical error and other reasons do happen. You may contact the insurance company directly to inquire about any unexpected delays.

Settlement Money: Check Deposited in Escrow and Liens Paid

The answer to how long for a settlement check to arrive also depends on whether other parties have placed a lien against you for payment of an outstanding debt. In most situations, the law offices receive the settlement check and deposit it into a trust account or what is called an escrow account. New York law requires the settlement check to temporarily sit in escrow until it clears. Your lawyer will disburse your portion of the settlement funds once this has taken place, and you will receive your settlement money.

If you have a lien filed against you, your attorney must pay them first before providing you access to your settlement money. Some of the most common liens against a personal injury settlement include:

· Unpaid bills with any medical provider

· Reimbursement to your insurance company, Medicare, or Medicaid if it paid any medical treatment costs related to the accident

· Payment of any outstanding child support obligations

You could face significant legal consequences by not paying a lien imposed by a government agency, healthcare provider, or an insurance company.

Paying Legal Fees and Costs for Your Settlement Amount

When considering the question of a settlement offer is paid out, please be aware that Raphaelson & Levine will deduct your legal fees from your winning settlement agreement before disbursing the rest of the funds to you. We will discuss anticipated legal fees when you meet with us for your initial consultation with our personal injury lawyer. Typically, attorney's fees are a set percentage of the amount of your favorable judgment. Our attorney fees cover many services, including:

· Paying for various experts to testify on your behalf

· Paying for court reporting and deposition services

· Expenses associated with gathering medical records and other evidence to support your claim

· Paying for the services of an accident reconstruction specialist

We will provide you with an itemized statement that lists all of your legal fees. This will arrive with your check from the contact information you'll to provide our law firm.

Receiving the Settlement Check

After we have issued payment for all liens and legal fees, we will write you a personal injury settlement check for the remainder of the balance and forward it to your home address. This time frame typically takes less than six weeks.

Settlement Timeline Exceptions in New York

While most personal injury victims receive their check within three to six weeks, this isn’t the case if the defendant is the City of New York or one of its municipal agencies. This timeline also doesn’t apply in wrongful death cases in New York. The reason for this is that the family of the deceased victim must go through a process to attain approval from the court. This is necessary to settle the case and determine how to disburse funds. It’s important to note that a wrongful death case and a personal injury case differ considerably in New York.

Because the three-week provision doesn’t apply to the city or its municipalities, you should expect a longer wait for your settlement funds. However, it’s incumbent on the insurance company and the defense attorney for the city or a municipality to act as quickly as possible in sending your winning settlement to your personal injury attorney for disbursement.

Learn More About the Personal Injury Lawsuit Process

If you have further questions about the process of receiving a settlement check or how settlements are paid out, we invite you to contact our personal injury law firm for a free consultation at 212-268-3222. The attorney you meet with will provide you with more information about the settlement process and personal injury law in general.

Howard Raphaelson
Partner, Attorney
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, NY. With over thirty years of experience as a personal injury lawyer, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).

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