Negotiating a fair settlement is often a long, frustrating process. So when it’s over, many claimants breathe a sigh of relief and turn to their next question:
“When will I receive my settlement check?”
Unfortunately, a settlement agreement doesn’t end with a check in your hands. Even an award from a judge or jury doesn’t result with money in your pocket — at least, not immediately.
You’ll likely have to wait a few weeks to a month before you receive your settlement check.
Why You Have to Wait for Your Settlement Check
If you’re about to receive compensation for your injuries, then one of three things has happened:
- The insurance company treated you fairly and gave you the settlement you deserved.
- A personal injury attorney negotiated with the insurance company on your behalf until they agreed to give you a fair settlement.
- A personal injury attorney represented your case before a judge and jury, and the court ruled in your favor for an award of a certain amount.
But it doesn’t matter how you secured your settlement or award. You won’t receive a check in the mail the next day.
Instead, your attorney will collect your check from the defendant.
Can I Trust My Attorney with My Settlement Check?
Your attorney receives the check first, not because they’re going to take more than they should, but because you likely need to pay some expenses first.
This way, your attorney handles most of your expenses so you can simply receive the portion of the settlement that is yours to keep.
Your attorney doesn’t just take your check and go on a spending spree. Instead, they deposit your check into an interest-bearing bank account affiliated with the Indiana Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA) program.
IOLTA trust accounts keep your money safe, and they also accrue interest. The Indiana Bar Foundation gathers this interest and gives it to nonprofits that promote pro bono (i.e., free) legal work.
Ask your attorney what the plan is when you receive a settlement or award. Make sure your check is going to a safe account. Your attorney should give you an itemized list of every expense they paid on your behalf.
What Expenses and Fees Come Out of My Settlement?
You may be surprised when the number on your check doesn’t match the number you heard in court or during negotiations. That’s because your attorney has had to pay your outstanding expenses before giving you the check.
Typically, your attorney will deduct the following expenses and fees from your settlement check:
- Medical records expenses
- Police report expenses
- Court filing fees
- Any liens placed on your settlement
- Your attorney’s contingency fee
Medical Records, Police Report, and Court filing Fees
These are standard fees accrued throughout the legal process.
Often, our clients cannot afford to pay these fees upfront as they happen. That’s why Hensley Legal Group covers these costs initially. We’re then paid for these costs out of our clients’ settlements when they are more financially secure.
Hensley Legal Group only recovers these costs if we secure compensation for our clients.
Liens Placed on Your Settlement
A lien is a legal right to someone else’s assets.
Medical providers, insurance companies, and programs like Medicare and Medicaid may place liens on your settlement to recover extra payments they made for your treatment.
Often, attorneys can negotiate a reduction for your medical bills since you will also owe an attorney’s fee. While this is a great benefit of hiring an attorney, the negotiations may delay the time it takes for you to receive your settlement check. Most attorneys will attempt to negotiate a reduction, but a reduction is not guaranteed.
In addition to liens placed by medical and/or insurance providers, you may also owe money in other forms, such as past-due child support. In Indiana, the government can garnish your personal injury lump sum settlement to pay any child support you currently owe.
Attorney’s Contingency Fee
Attorneys who work on a contingency fee basis don’t get paid unless they achieve a settlement for you. If you don’t get paid, then you don’t owe your attorney a single penny.
Other lawyers may receive hourly fees or retainers for their services. At Hensley Legal Group, our lawyers only work on a contingency fee basis.
Our contingency fee for personal injury cases differs depending on how far you go through the legal process.
If we achieve a settlement for you through negotiations, our contingency fee is one-third of your settlement: 33.3 percent.
However, clients sometimes choose to file a lawsuit and go to trial to get the compensation they deserve. (Your attorney should never force you to file a lawsuit — only you can decide to take that step.) If you choose to file a lawsuit, then our fee becomes 40 percent to cover the costs of going to trial.
Receiving Your Settlement
After all of your expenses and fees have been paid, your attorney will keep their agreed-upon percentage and then issue the remainder to you via check.
You will also receive a disbursement (i.e., a breakdown) of your settlement so you know exactly how much you were awarded and how much was paid in expenses, fees, and liens to various organizations.
It may take a couple of weeks for your check to clear the bank. Once it clears, you’ll finally have your settlement money.
Help from an Indiana Personal Injury Attorney
Waiting for a settlement check is hard, but getting through life after an injury without one is even harder.
If you’ve been injured, Hensley Legal Group can help. We’ll fight to get you the compensation you deserve.