It is not uncommon to assume that negotiating a settlement agreement in a personal injury lawsuit will result in an immediate cash payment. However, the reality is it can take time to recover your deserved compensation. Your attorney also has the power—and often the obligation—to hold your check in escrow.
Important details must be finalized before you can get your lawsuit settlement check money. This includes resolving medical liens and paying your legal counsel for their work. Because of these requirements, there is no firm deadline for your Atlanta personal injury lawyer to transfer your settlement.
What Is Escrow, and How Does It Affect Your Settlement Check?
When your attorney receives your settlement check, they cannot cash it or intermingle it with company funds. Every lawyer who handles client funds must have an escrow account. These funds are held separately from the law firm’s money, and your lawyer cannot spend them. Law firms must do this to prevent fraud or the accidental expenditure of client assets.
With an escrow account, your lawyer will carefully track every dollar deposited or disbursed. The money is yours, but it is held while other obligations are being paid from those funds. Once disbursement is finished, the remaining settlement funds are paid directly to you.
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Several Factors Can Hold Up Your Settlement Check
Many factors can affect how long it takes to receive a payment after your case is settled. Some delays occur before your settlement is resolved, but others can happen after your attorney already has your funds in escrow.
It is a good idea to contact your attorney for updates. Your lawyer can update you on the settlement’s status and answer your questions. You may have questions involving any of the following factors that can hold up the conclusion of a settlement.
Medical Liens Are a Common Reason for Settlement Check Delays
One factor that will most likely slow down your settlement is medical liens, such as those under O.C.G.A. § 44-14-470. These liens can be helpful early in the process because they allow you to get medical care for your injuries, even if you can’t afford to pay for it. Instead of billing you, the medical provider attaches a lien to your settlement.
These liens prevent your settlement from being paid out until they are resolved. On the bright side, your personal injury attorney might be able to negotiate your medical liens for a lower amount. This could allow you to pay those bills while retaining more of your settlement.
There May Be Other Liens to Consider
Medical providers are not the only ones that might attach a lien to your recovery. Other parties, including the government, could also be interested in your settlement’s outcome. If you have unpaid tax liens or back child support, it is possible the state could place a lien on your settlement until that obligation is paid. Also, other creditor liens must be addressed before you can get your money.
Your Lawyer Must Also Receive Their Payment
Finally, your lawyer has an interest in your settlement funds. Only after every other outstanding lien is paid and any disputes are resolved can your attorney take their share as a fee. This is the last step before you receive your settlement funds. You should take care to protect your personal injury settlement. Your attorney can advise you on how to preserve it for your future needs.
What to Do About Lengthy Settlement Check Delays
Unfortunately, delays are part of the personal injury settlement process. In many cases, they are considered reasonable. Negotiating a settlement takes time, and executing it takes even longer. In fact, it is better for your attorney to take their time to ensure everything is in order instead of rushing into a settlement without ironing out every detail.
If you feel the delay in your case is unreasonably long, the first place you can turn is your agreement with your lawyer. These documents will set out a wide range of rights and responsibilities. They can include a set deadline for when your attorney must submit payment to you.
Read Your Agreement for Language Regarding Delays
However, even these deadlines are typically couched in language regarding reasonable delays. For example, your attorney does not have a legal obligation to transfer your money if you have not yet signed your settlement documents.
The best path forward is through clear communication with your attorney. Most lawyers are eager to conclude a case after settlement, so communicating with them regularly and openly with them could help you avoid any misunderstandings.
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How Much Will My Attorney Keep of My Settlement Check?
One of the last steps before you receive your settlement funds is paying your legal fees. Attorneys generally take injury cases on contingency, which means they are entitled to a portion of anything they collect on your behalf.
Every attorney has an approach to contingency fee billing. Some lawyers ask for a larger percentage depending on their experience and track record. What is important is understanding a lawyer’s contingency fee percentage up front. During a free consultation, you could ask questions about what your attorney might charge you in a given case.
These percentages are generally fixed according to the terms of your agreement with your lawyer. That means unless your agreement allows for it, your attorney cannot ask for a larger percentage as your case moves forward. The law in most states prevents attorneys from taking more than half of a settlement as their attorney fee.
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You Can Avoid Delays in Receiving a Settlement Check From Your Lawyer—Call Us
Any unexpected delay during the settlement process can be frustrating. That is especially true in cases where it feels like your lawyer is dragging their feet. You deserve an attorney who will pursue compensation on your behalf until you have your settlement payment in your hands.
Kaine Law’s personal injury team can resolve these settlements and protect your rights and interests. Call our firm today to discuss your options for recovery during a free, confidential consultation. We’re ready to take legal action for you.