Once your personal injury case has gone through the trial, mediation, or settlement, it is time to get your money. This could be as easy as waiting for the defendant’s insurance company to mail out a check or the process could take on a whole new route. If, for instance, the defendant appeals a ruling, you will be far from done with the case. Or, worse, the defendant may not have insurance or his or her insurance company does not cover the awarded damages. So, let’s break down these scenarios.
Once Settlement Has Been Reached
For our purposes, we are going to assume that a settlement offer has been made in the case and you have accepted it. Once that happens, the court will have to be notified. Upon notification, the court will present an order that a settlement has been reached and all related paperwork will have to be completed and filed within the deadline of that specific jurisdiction (usually 30 to 60 days).
The next step in the process at this point is to process the release. The defendant’s attorneys will prepare the release but unfortunately, this is usually not a short or easy to read document for a layperson. The document will be packed with legalese, which is exactly why you need a personal injury attorney to go through it to make sure the language is agreeable in terms of what you are expecting in the settlement and future liability of the defendant.
Generally speaking, cleaning up the language and coming to an agreement should take no longer than a few days. However, if the parties come to a standstill in terms of not budging on the language, a judge will more than likely have to jump in to settle the issue. If this happens, what generally takes a few days could take weeks or months to settle.
When the release has been agreed to, you should sit down with your personal attorney to go over the document and have anything you are uncertain about explained. We cannot stress enough that you should understand and fully agree to any terms in the document before signing it. Once you agree to the release, it will have to be signed in front of a notary (in larger offices, there is generally a notary on staff, or the attorney will have someone they work with regularly). Once the document is signed, notarized, and returned to the defense attorney, the deal is finalized.
The settlement check will more than likely be sent to your attorney, as there is some financial business that will need to be handled before you get your share of the settlement. All expenses will be taken right off the top, assuming your attorney paid for them. If not, you will be reimbursed for the expenses before the cut is made. Additionally, if there are any liens against you related to the suit, they will be satisfied before you receive your share. Once that has been taken care of, the remaining money will be split per the agreement you have with your attorney.
If There is an Appeal
If the case went to trial, there is a very strong likelihood the defendant will appeal the decision. If this happens, the settlement is put on hold until the process plays out, and this will take some time. There are several possible outcomes.
#1 – Decision is upheld
#2 – Decision is overturned
#3 – Case is returned for a new trial
In either scenario one or two, the process is still not done, as the case may be taken to your State Supreme Court. In some cases, it can go one level higher to the federal Supreme Court, but this very unlikely in personal injury cases. The third scenario is pretty much a nightmare scenario in that the verdict is set aside and you must do the entire process all over again.
If Defendant Does Not Have Insurance
In all likelihood, the only way this scenario will play out is if the defendant has considerable assets that would enable you to recover a settlement directly from the defendant. Otherwise, it is unlikely an attorney will even take the case. In this exception, though, the settlement procedures play out as mentioned above with your attorney securing a certified check or a bank check from the defendant prior to signing any settlement deal.
Have you recently been injured in an accident and are you in need of a personal injury attorney? If you would like to discuss your case with no obligation to use our legal service, you can fill out our contact form (click here) or give us a call at 855-633-0888. If you would like to learn more about the personal injury lawyer services we provide, you can click here. Remember, the initial consultation is free, so don’t delay!
Taryn J. White is a legal research specialist and Injury law news reporter. Her current accomplishments include helping those facing any injuries from vehicle accidents, workplace accidents, and medical malpractice.