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How Long After Settling My Case Until I Get My Money?

Posted by Scott Edwards | Sep 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

Last year, I wrote a blog post on how long it usually takes to resolve a personal injury claim. You can read that post here. In that post, I wrote that if your case settles in the negotiations stage of a claim it “usually takes … one to two months wrap up your case and get you a check.” That seems like a long time to wrap something up that seems to be already wrapped up and many clients wonder why it takes so long. I hope to answer that question today.

Once an accident victim (and/or the victim's attorney) settles a case with an insurance adjuster, the adjuster will draft a Release Agreement. This is the contract that sets forth the amount of money the insurance company agrees to pay in exchange for the victim promising not to pursue further legal action against the at-fault party for their injuries. Usually this takes anywhere from a few hours to seven business days or so.

Once this contract is drafted it is sent to the injured person's attorney (or if the injured person is not represented by an attorney to the injured person directly). Sometimes the Release is sent via e-mail or fax. In such instances the “delivery time” is instantaneous. Other times it is mailed—typically adding up to three business days to be delivered.

When the Release is received, it has to be signed by the accident victim. Sometimes my clients are flexible and can come in the day the Release is received. Other times it can take a week or two before they are able to come in and sign. In some instances, with more technologically savvy clients, we are able to e-mail the Release and have it signed electronically--instantaneous. In any event, typically the process takes approximately five business days.

Once signed, the release is sent back to the insurance company. Many companies will accept an electronic signature—either e-mailed or faxed back to them. Obviously in such instances the return time is instantaneous. Other insurance companies, require a “wet signature”. In such instances, we have to mail the Release back to the insurance company—adding another three business days to the return time.

When the release is returned to the insurance company the insurance adjuster will request a check to be drafted in accordance with the Release Agreement. This can take anywhere from a couple of business days to a couple of weeks—or more in some instances.

When the adjuster receives the check, he or she then mails it to the injured person's attorney (or if the injured person is not represented by an attorney to the injured person directly). Again, as with anything in the mail, it's safe to assume this will add approximately three business days to the timeline.

If the injured person is represented by an attorney, the settlement check must be placed in the attorney's client trust account. Here even though the funds are clearly identified as belonging to each separate client, they are essentially mixed with the funds of the attorney's other clients. Because of this it is critically important to ensure the funds are in the account before releasing funds to the client. Our firm's policy is to wait seven business days after depositing the money in trust before releasing them to the client (thereby ensuring that the funds are received—that the settlement check didn't bounce—before releasing the funds to a client).

Finally, after ensuring the settlement check is received into the attorney's trust account it can be distributed to the accident victim and others who may be entitled to receive a portion of the settlement proceeds. As attorneys, we are prohibited from releasing funds to a client when there may be others involved in the claim who claim an interest in the money. For more about this topic, see my other post, “Where’s My Money: Who May Receive a Portion of an Injury Settlement”. Typically this is able to be completed between the time the case is settled and the time in which the funds are ready to be disbursed. In other instances it can take much longer. Typically, we're usually able to wrap this process up no more than ten business days later.

In summary, and to put this entire blog post into an easier to digest math problem:

TASK

TYPICAL TIME

Draft Release

0 – 7 business days

Deliver Release to Accident Victim

0 – 3 business days

Accident Victim to Sign Release

0 – 5 business days

Return Release to Insurance Adjuster

0 – 3 business days

Request a Check

2 – 10 business days

Deliver Check to Accident Victim

3 business days

Funds in Attorney Trust Account

7 business days

Disburse to client

0 – 10 business days

TOTAL

12 – 48 business days

All of these time periods are, of course, typical and not guarantees or absolutes. As with anything in the law there are always exceptions. We're rarely able to “finalize” a settlement in less than two weeks. Sometimes it takes more than two months.

I hope this can help offer some explanation on why it takes so long to wrap up a settlement even after a claim has been settled. If you have specific questions about the process, it can be best to talk with your attorney directly. There may be certain reasons your case falls outside of this typical timeline.

About the Author

Scott Edwards

Scott Edwards is a partner at Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Staples & Edwards law firm. Scott is licensed in both Oregon and Washington, and has been practicing law since 2008. Though Scott started his career working for insurance companies, he now focuses his practice on personal injury, auto accident, biking accident, and insurance cases. In his free time, Scott enjoys spending time pedaling around the streets of Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon on his bicycle.

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