When it comes to personal injury claims, the process of reaching a settlement agreement can often feel like a marathon, not a sprint. After investing your time, energy, and resources in the quest for justice, you may feel anxious about receiving your settlement money. The journey from signing the settlement to seeing the funds in your bank account, however, may have a few more steps.
You want a Philadelphia personal injury lawyer who can demystify settlements, the various factors affecting how long it can take to receive your money, and how you can speed up the process.
An Overview of Personal Injury Settlements
A legal settlement happens when disputing parties agree to a resolution without going to trial. It may involve compensation for an aggrieved party, such as in personal injury cases. Individuals who've suffered harm or injury due to the negligence of another person or entity may qualify for a personal injury settlement. Personal injury cases encompass a wide range of circumstances.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
This is one of the most common types of personal injury cases that occurs when a driver fails to follow the rules of the road, resulting in a collision.
This happens when a healthcare professional, through a negligent act or omission, causes injury to a patient.
Workers' compensation laws usually cover these injuries, but there are certain circumstances where a lawsuit may be viable.
Slip and Fall Cases
These cases are common premises liability disputes that arise when a property owner fails to maintain their property in a safe condition, leading to injury.
Product Liability Cases
These cases arise when defective products cause injuries. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers can all potentially be liable for harmful products.
These claims are legal actions that happen when the negligence or misconduct of another party causes a person's death. It allows the deceased's survivors or estate to seek compensation for losses such as the deceased's lost income, lost companionship, and funeral expenses.
Hire an attorney to seek the compensation you deserve. They can use their knowledge, negotiating skills, and professionalism to maximize your settlement.
After the Settlement Agreement
Once the parties reach a settlement agreement, it often needs court approval, particularly in cases involving minors or incapacitated individuals. After court approval, the process of distributing the settlement funds begins, which typically involves sending a check to your attorney, who will then distribute the funds to you.
How Long Does It Take to Get Paid After a Settlement?
It generally takes two to six weeks to receive the settlement money after the parties sign the agreement. Several factors can delay payment, such as issues with paperwork, delays from the at-fault party's insurance company, or disputes over the settlement details.
Contact your lawyer for advice and potential recourse if you experience delays without a valid reason.
Bank Procedures May Delay Your Settlement Payout
Weekends and holidays can extend the timeline of receiving your settlement payout due to bank operating hours and non-business days. Banks often process transactions only on regular business days, which excludes weekends and holidays. As a result, if the signing of the settlement agreement or issuing of the check occurs close to a weekend or holiday, it may cause a delay.
Mail services do not operate on Sundays and federal holidays. This can cause further delays if you are receiving your settlement money as a physical check.
Banks often have particular policies related to the handling of large checks, which can lead to delays in settlement payouts. To deter fraud and ensure the availability of funds, banks may place a hold on large deposited checks, typically those over a certain threshold. This hold period can last several business days, depending on the bank's policy.
Some banks also require additional time to verify large checks, especially those drawn on an out-of-state or foreign bank. The government may review wire transfers of large amounts for compliance with anti-money laundering laws, which can cause further delays. Talk to your bank in advance to understand any potential hold periods or policies that may affect the receipt of your settlement check.
The Role of a Lawyer in Speeding up the Payment Process
An experienced lawyer can expedite the payment process. They know the right people to contact, the correct procedures to follow, and the legal rights and remedies you have in the case of delayed payment.
Communicating with your lawyer, providing all necessary information promptly, and responding promptly to requests can help expedite the settlement process. A lawyer keeps organized and thorough records on your behalf, which you need to head off disputes or complications.
Frequently Asked Questions About Settlements
How Much Is the Average Personal Injury Settlement?
Personal injury settlements vary widely depending on the specifics of the case and the severity of the injuries. Your attorney's goal is to pursue compensation that covers your economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages are the tangible and quantifiable financial losses resulting from an injury. These costs are typically easy to calculate and prove by presenting bills, receipts, and employment records.
Examples of economic damages include medical expenses such as hospital bills, the cost of medication, and rehabilitation costs. They also cover loss of earnings, which includes the income you lost due to the inability to work after the injury and the expected future loss of earnings if you cannot work later on.
Other economic damages include out-of-pocket expenses for transportation to medical appointments, home care, or any equipment and home modifications required due to the injury.
Non-economic damages refer to losses that don't have a clear dollar value. These damages compensate you for the psychological and emotional distress an injury causes. If an injury results in permanent disfigurement, for example, the victim might receive payment for the psychological trauma and diminished life satisfaction they experience.
Insurance companies often attempt to devalue these subjective claims. Non-economic damages come with a real financial and emotional cost, though. Some people who experience a personal injury will experience lasting psychological effects. According to recent data from the American Psychological Association, the average cost to treat someone with non-military-related post-traumatic stress disorder is $18,640 per year.
Non-economic damages can also cover pain and suffering, which refers to the victim's physical discomfort and emotional distress. Other examples include loss of enjoyment of life (if the injury prevents the victim from engaging in hobbies or activities they once enjoyed) and loss of consortium, which compensates a spouse for the loss of companionship and intimacy.
Serious and life-altering injuries can command much higher sums.
Can I Pursue a Settlement Without an Attorney?
Attorneys have experience with the legalities, paperwork, and procedural requirements that such a process entails. Without this knowledge, you may overlook important procedures or deadlines, jeopardizing your claim.
Negotiating with the at-fault party or their insurance company can also be daunting and challenging without legal representation. These entities often have lawyers with experience in mitigating their liability.
Determining the fair value of your claim is difficult without the skill of a legal professional. An attorney has the knowledge and experience to fully account for all your damages, both current and future, which you may undervalue or overlook.
Pursuing a settlement without a lawyer working on your behalf might yield lower compensation than you deserve. This could lead to financial difficulties in the future, especially if your injuries require ongoing medical attention.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire an Attorney for a Personal Injury Settlement?
The cost of hiring an attorney for a personal injury settlement can vary significantly depending on the complexity of your case, the attorney's experience, and the fee structure. Many personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning they collect their fees after securing a settlement on your behalf.
In a contingency fee arrangement, the attorney receives a percentage of the settlement or judgment amount.
While hiring an attorney can seem costly, the benefits of professional legal representation often outweigh the expenses. An attorney navigates the complex legal landscape, negotiates a higher settlement amount, and works to protect your rights throughout the process. Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations, so you can discuss your case and potential costs without any obligation.
Do I Have to Go to Court to Win a Settlement?
Not necessarily. Most legal disputes, including personal injury cases, resolve without going to court. This is a settlement, in which both parties agree to resolve the dispute outside of court, usually with the payment of a certain amount of money.
Negotiations for a settlement can occur at any stage, even before officially filing a lawsuit. They usually involve the injured party or their attorney and the legal representative or insurance company of the party at fault. In cases where both parties are willing to negotiate and compromise, you can avoid a court appearance.
If negotiations fail and the parties cannot reach a fair agreement, however, going to court might be the best option to protect your interests. In this instance, a judge or jury would decide about fault and compensation. Your attorney should weigh the potential benefits and risks of going to court. Note that even if your case does go to court, it can still settle at any time before you receive the final verdict.
Can I Sue for More Money if My Initial Settlement Doesn't Pay All of My Bills?
In most circumstances, once you accept and finalize a settlement, the law bars you from pursuing additional compensation from the party or parties involved in the settlement. It's crucial to ensure that the proposed settlement truly covers all your expenses before accepting it. This could include current and future medical bills, lost income due to missed work, pain and suffering, and other relevant expenses your injuries may cause.
Given this stipulation, the role of an experienced attorney becomes even more vital. Attorneys have a deep understanding of the legalities and can accurately estimate the full extent of the financial implications of your injuries. They have the skills to effectively negotiate with insurance companies who often look to minimize their costs.
If your settlement doesn't cover all your expenses, your lawyer might identify other liable parties or discover other insurance policies (yours or others) that may apply to the situation. This can require extensive legal knowledge. Rely on an attorney's skills to navigate these possibilities.
A Lawyer Can Help Speed Up Your Settlement Process
Understanding the timeline of receiving settlement money is critical for managing expectations and planning effectively. Patience, understanding, and open lines of communication with your lawyer can make the lengthy and complex process smoother.
Every legal dispute is unique, so your experience may vary. A Philadelphia personal injury law firm's attorney can explain your situation.