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How Long Can My Lawyer Hold Onto My Settlement Check

Delays in Receiving Your Settlement Check

Once a legal dispute is resolved, the waiting game can begin for your settlement check. You may ask: why would my lawyer hold onto my settlement check? The answer isn’t always straightforward. It depends on several factors which can include court rules and the specific agreements reached.

In general, attorneys may hold your settlement check until all related costs are addressed. These may include various legal fees and medical liens. Getting through this process can take weeks or even months, making the wait for your money frustrating. The timeline can depend on a host of factors that can lead to delays. Your attorney should keep you informed every step of the way. If not, do not hesitate to ask questions; remember it’s your money at stake.

How Long Can a Lawyer Hold a Settlement Check?

It could take a few weeks to a few weeks for you to receive a settlement check, depending on your settlement agreement and the details of your case. Your attorney will first pay your settlement check into the escrow or trust account of the law firm. This typically takes five to seven days.

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Legal Settlement 101

According to data from the BJS (the Bureau of Justice Statistics), only 4% of personal injury cases reach trial. Most personal injury cases are settled outside a courtroom with the parties working out an agreement through their legal representatives.

A settlement is a legal agreement that ends a dispute and sees the case dismissed from the civil court system.

Settlements happen before the plaintiff files a lawsuit, but they most commonly occur after the plaintiff files paperwork initiating a civil trial. The time and expense of going to trial means it is usually in the interests of both parties to settle the matter out of court.

While the settlement process is straightforward, there are some common reasons for delays in settlement checks being issued.

What Causes Delays with Settlement Checks?

There is no fixed timeline for the delivery of a settlement check due to the complexities of each unique case. Some settlements finalize in six weeks or so, while others can take months to resolve.

The better your understanding of the process, the less frustrating you will find it. These are some of the most common reasons for delays in the settlement check process:

  • Release forms
  • Delays in processing
  • Check clearance
  • Payment of liens and bills

Release forms

The first form you need to sign to kickstart the settlement check process is a release form. When you sign this form, you are agreeing to the settlement offer, and you are also stating that you relinquish the right to pursue future legal action against the defendant for the case in question.

You should ask your attorney to review the release form before you sign the document. Depending on the number of parties involved in the case, you may need to sign multiple release forms.

In some rare cases, one party may disagree with some provisions of the release form. This typically requires that the release form is redrafted, delaying proceedings.

Delays in processing

All states have different laws relating to the amount of time given to a defendant to issue settlement payment once the release form is signed.

Unfortunately, some insurers take the full time given by the law to process checks. Expect a wait of up to 30 days at this phase of proceedings.

Check clearance

Your attorney pays your settlement check into the trust account or escrow account of their law firm. It takes from five to seven days to clear with the issuing bank.

Once the check clears, your lawyer then needs to make further deductions before remitting the balance of your settlement, either by mail or by wire transfer.

Payment of liens and bills

If you have any outstanding medical bills or medical liens related to your personal injury case, your attorney will pay these bills from the settlement.

In most cases, settling liens is straightforward. Complications can arise if the government places a lien against your settlement. Resolving liens from government-funded programs like Medicaid or Medicare can take months.

Your lawyer will also use the settlement check to resolve all outstanding bills related to your case.

After deducting the pre-agreed legal fees – a percentage of your settlement – as well as any legal costs like expert witness testimony or private investigations, your lawyer will send you the balance of your settlement.

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Speeding Up Delivery of Your Settlement Check

Proper preparation can streamline the settlement check process. The first thing you can do is to prepare a draft release form ahead of time. When you reach a settlement agreement, you will then just need to tweak the release form, sign it, and return it to your attorney.

Consult with your lawyer in advance of the settlement check arriving to calculate outstanding medical liens and bills. This will expedite the process once funds arrive.

Always respond in a timely manner to all requests from your attorney so you do not trigger any delays yourself.

What can you do if you need cash while waiting for a settlement check to arrive?

Consider Pre-Settlement Funding

Pre-settlement funding goes by many names, including legal funding and lawsuit loans.

With this form of non-recourse financing, you receive a cash advance against your anticipated settlement award. Neither your credit score nor your employment status is a qualifying factor for legal funding. All that counts is the strength of your case.

If you win your case, you’re pay the principal in addition to interest and a funding fee. If you lose your case, you’repay nothing.

This type of financing is not the right solution for everyone. Interest is typically compounded monthly, meaning costs can spiral if your case takes a long time to settle. that’said, in some cases, pre-settlement funding is the most practical route to staying above water financially while you wait for a settlement check to arrive.

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