It can take weeks to get money after reaching a settlement in your Pittsburgh personal injury case. By most estimates, over a month may pass before the settlement is finalized, and money is in your hands. There are a few steps left to complete in the settlement process, even after you reach an agreement. Only after these steps are complete will the insurance company send the check to us, and we will get you paid as soon as possible.
Understanding the Settlement and Payment Process
Once we reach a verbal agreement for a fair settlement of your case, there are additional steps in the process that must occur before you receive your money. We will need to review and approve the proposed release and make appropriate changes before you can sign the release. A release generally states:
- We accept the settlement offer in the agreed-on amount; and
- In exchange for this compensation, we will not pursue any further legal action related to this incident or injuries.
If the release does not meet our approval, we will need to reach an agreement with the insurance company or defense counsel as to acceptable language in the release.
Sometimes a release requires notarization.
Once a release is agreed upon, we must send it to you along with other documents we will need to prepare regarding your settlement. How quickly it takes you to return the release will affect how long it takes to get you your money. You always have the option of making an appointment to sign the release to our office.
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The Insurer Must Receive the Agreement Before Issuing a Check
The insurance company will not start the process of sending a check until it has this release in hand. Then, it will request a check for the amount we settled on. Getting this check issued may take a few hours or a few weeks.
When the check is ready, the Defendant or insurance company will send it to us if we represent you in your case. If the Defendant has an attorney, the check may initially be forwarded to that attorney. We will process the check, and deposit it in our trust account. After the check clears (typically within five business days), we issue funds to you, any lienholders, and take out the attorney’s fees and costs.
Pennsylvania Law Gives 20 Days for Your Settlement Funds to be Released
Pennsylvania law limits the time a defendant or insurance company can take to deliver your settlement funds after receiving the executed release form. Per Pa. R.C.P. No. 29.1 a defendant must deliver your settlement money to your lawyer (or you, if not represented) lawyer within 20 calendar days. If they do not release the funds to you in that timeframe, you could:
- Invalidate the settlement agreement as permitted by law
- Impose sanctions on the defendant in the form of interest for the nonpayment of the funds.
Common Delays in Getting Your Money After a Settlement
While it should not take too long to get your check after we reach a settlement agreement, there are many points in the settlement and payment process when delays can occur. This may include:
Weekends and Bank Holidays
When the bank is closed, it puts the ability to process your payment on hold. If we receive your check on Friday, we will not be able to deposit your check in our trust account until the bank reopens.
Sometimes, banks hold large sums of money for several days to ensure the legitimacy of the deposit. Unfortunately, this requirement means it could take longer to receive your settlement money, even though the check has already been released to you.
By law, a bank can only hold funds deposited into an account for a “reasonable amount of time.” However, reasonable is not defined. Generally, banks hold deposits for 1-7 business days, but large amounts of money could lead to a longer delay. All banks have a funds availability disclosure that they must make accessible to customers.
Insurance Company Delays
There are often delays between when the insurance company receives the signed settlement agreement and when they write a settlement check. This can happen for several reasons. For example, some insurance companies only write checks on certain days of the week or process payments only a few times a month. Others may have the claims process executed in one state, but the check is cut in another.
Finalizing Liens and reductions
If your medical bills were paid by government-funded plans such as Medicare, Medicare Advantage Plans, Department of Human Services, Veterans Benefits, and most other government-funded or sponsored plans as well as workers’ compensation and most private or employer-sponsored plans, it is likely that you are subject to an obligation to repay bills that were paid due to your accident. This is a surprise to most people since most people are not informed of this at the time they were insured. If this is not repaid, there can be serious consequences for you.
As a result of this subrogation or reimbursement obligation, settlement funds cannot be distributed until final payoff amounts are received. These insurers often claim a right to update the amount until a settlement is finalized. Some of these entities, especially the government, move slowly and can considerably delay the distribution of settlement funds.
The good news is that if you are represented by Berger and Green, we will explore obtaining a reduction in the amount that you need to repay.
Special Procedures in Minors’ claims or death cases
When a settlement is for a minor (a child under 18), once a settlement amount is agreed upon, a release is usually not binding and enforceable unless Court Approval is obtained. (The Courts will usually then require a Court approved and controlled account to be set up.) The attorneys at Berger and Green are experienced in how to do this. However, the procedure varies by county and some counties require in-person hearings while other counties will rely upon a detailed written motion.
Similarly, when settling a wrongful death or survival action, similar Court approval is almost always required. Furthermore, because Inheritance Tax may be involved, the Department of Revenue may also require a review of your settlement. If the decedent has an estate other than the lawsuit, other estate administration requirements may also come into play.
Unfortunately, these types of cases do require some additional time to finalize the settlement and distribute funds and the amount of time depends on the Court.
How to Prepare for the Wait Before the Settlement Check Comes
Since it can take up to a month and a half to receive your settlement funds, you may want to think about what you can do to meet your financial obligations until you receive your money. It helps to have realistic expectations and a plan that can get you through the wait.
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Things to Know Before You Get Your Settlement Check
Your attorney may have to send payments from your settlement to satisfy unpaid debts, which are known as liens. This includes payments to medical providers, government agencies, insurers, and others. Your lawyer will also take out legal fees and costs for payment before you receive your check. The fees deducted should match the agreement between you and your lawyer.
You should receive a distribution to sign that lists all the deductions from the settlement amount, and also list the exact amount you will receive. If you do not, ask for a list of deducted expenses and look it over to make sure everything checks out. Ask questions if something is unclear or you don’t recognize an itemized expense. If you are a client of Berger and Green, you will receive a statement with all of this information.
Speeding Up the Process of Receiving Your Settlement Check
While much of the wait for a settlement check will be out of your or your personal injury lawyer’s control, there are a few things we can do to speed things up.
For example, attorneys typically know what documents the defendant, the insurance company, or other parties will require throughout the settlement process. When it looks like settlement is sure, your lawyer will begin the process of preparing documents. The quicker you complete and return them, the faster and smoother the process will likely go.
Is it Really Worth Hiring an Attorney?
Our law firm handles numerous personal injury cases. We have over 40 years of experience achieving positive outcomes for clients who put their trust in us. Our firm’s personal injury lawyers have recovered millions of dollars for injury victims throughout Western Pennsylvania, and we will work to do the same for you.
As your legal counsel, we know the laws that pertain to various personal injury practice areas. In addition, we know how to deal with insurance companies. Our legal team is aware of the tactics used by insurance companies and large corporations to undervalue your claim or shirk their responsibility to pay altogether. We have the resources to investigate your personal injury claim and the determination to demand the compensation you deserve. We are also experienced in negotiating settlements and taking cases to trial when necessary.
Call Us Today About Your Pittsburgh Personal Injury Case
If you suffered injuries in a Pittsburgh personal injury accident, the team from Berger and Green can pursue compensation on your behalf. We will investigate your accident and build a strong case to support the damages you deserve. We may be able to negotiate an out-of-court settlement with the insurance company or liable party, or we can file a personal injury lawsuit for you.