A sudden injury or accident can bring your entire life to a screeching halt. From unexpected medical bills to physical injuries to the emotional trauma of the event, you have several new and potentially overwhelming responsibilities to tend to in the wake of the incident.
As the dust settles, it’s understandable to do everything you can to pursue compensation for your suffering and use the money to restore your life. Given this, you may wonder about the process of finalizing personal injury settlements.
What happens after you decide on a settlement, and how long does it take for your settlement to arrive? This article explains the process that follows filing a personal injury claim and how reputable personal injury lawyers can assist you on this journey.
The Steps in the Personal Injury Settlement Process
If you’ve been in an accident caused by another person, you legally have the right to file a personal injury claim to request compensation for the damages you’ve suffered. This process usually begins with filing a personal injury claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company.
Statistically, few personal injury cases go to trial, which means most individuals seeking compensation accept a settlement from the insurance company. However, depending on the circumstances, the period between the time you file the claim and the day you deposit the settlement check can be lengthy.
Learning about how insurance companies and attorneys finalize personal injury settlements in Mobile, AL, may better prepare you for this process.
1. You Sign the Release Form
First, all parties must agree on the settlement amount. This usually includes you, the at-fault party, your attorneys, and their insurance company. Settling on an amount may take time, as some parties may have differing views about the terms, and these disagreements often cause delays in the process.
In particular, insurance companies usually offer a lower-than-expected amount at first in hopes you will accept the settlement immediately. This is why, despite your eagerness to start spending your settlement funds, you should wait to accept any terms until you’ve consulted with your attorney.
If all parties agree, you can fill out the necessary paperwork, including the release form. This form states that once this settlement resolves, you won’t seek any further compensation, and the at-fault party and their insurance company are not responsible for future damages.
2. The Insurance Company Writes a Check for Your Compensation Amount
Once all parties have agreed on the terms and you’ve signed the release form, the at-fault party’s insurance provider reviews the paperwork. With your signed release form in the insurance provider’s possession, a representative from the insurance company writes the settlement check and sends it to your attorney’s law firm.
3. Your Lawyer Desposits the Check
At this stage, your settlement check is usually with your attorney, who has a few more responsibilities to handle before they deliver the money to you.
The insurance providers may send your check to your attorney rather than directly to you because you may have third-party expenses to pay before you can accept your settlement. For example, your lawyer may work on contingency, which means they take their payment out of your settlement. Your attorney can help you navigate these additional costs and negotiate to reduce them if possible.
4. Your Lawyer Negotiates for Other Expenses Incurred
In personal injury settlements, injured parties may still have expenses to pay. These costs, called “liens,” are often medical expenses and other debts you incurred during recovery.
Your personal injury attorney can help you negotiate these expenses. Generally, liens come from one or more of the following:
- Medical care: Your health insurance plan may not pay for all the medical expenses you incur during this process. Depending on the severity of your injury, the cost of your care can increase significantly, which means you could have to use a portion of your settlement funds to pay any remaining medical bills.
- Government-provided health insurance: In some cases, the state can also seek compensation, which may reduce your settlement amount.
- Employer-based coverage: If your insurance is through your employer or organization, and your insurance provider paid for your medical care, your insurance provider may be able to file a lien. At this point, you would likely owe them reimbursement for the costs incurred.
Assuming all parties agree to the liens and reimbursement terms, your personal injury attorney can take the amount owed to these third parties out of your settlement funds. Sometimes, this process may require some debate before all parties feel satisfied with the terms. This is why having an experienced personal injury attorney to help you navigate this process is essential.
5. You Have and Can Spend Your Settlement Funds
Finally, we arrive at the most anticipated step in the process: securing and using your personal injury settlement funds. To reach this step, you and your attorney must finalize payments for all of your expenses and liens. Additionally, your attorney should go over any legal fees with you to complete the payment process.
Then, your attorney can give you a copy of the paperwork relevant to your settlement, including your release form and receipts from your various expenses. Carefully review these documents to ensure everything is in order, and sign the last bit of paperwork to close the case.
Once you’ve completed all of these steps, your attorney will give you your check. With these funds in your possession, you can finally start to return to everyday life.
How Insurance Companies Make Their Settlement Offers
Some of the most common types of personal injury cases include, but aren’t limited to:
- Car accidents
- Commercial vehicle accidents
- Workplace injuries
- Medical malpractice
- Dog bites and attacks
In an at-fault state like Alabama, the person or persons responsible for the accident must pay compensation for the damages. However, insurance companies may seek to reduce the settlement payment as much as possible, meaning the initial offer may be lower than you expect.
The at-fault party’s insurance company may make a settlement offer shortly after you file the claim. If you accept this initial offer, further compensation may not be possible.
Knowing this, always speak to your attorney before finalizing any personal injury settlements. In short, do not sign any paperwork or accept any compensation without first consulting your attorney to ensure you’re making the most appropriate decision for your case.
If the insurance company makes a low offer, you and your attorney can make a counteroffer. It may take time to reach an agreement, but a well-trained attorney can assist you during this process.
Is It Possible to Speed Up the Settlement Process?
Personal injury settlements often take time. Deciding the terms and coming to an agreement may involve some back and forth between you and the at-fault party’s insurance provider, and these cases often experience delays due to disputed release forms, out-of-state insurance offices, clerical errors, and negotiations. However, you can try to accelerate the process in a few ways.
Having your release document ready ahead of time may speed things up. Likewise, be sure to submit the release form and any other relevant documents to the at-fault party’s insurance company as quickly as possible.
Lump Sum Settlement Payments vs. Structured Payments
You can usually choose how the insurance company pays out your settlement. Generally, you have two options: a lump sum or a payment schedule.
The average timetable for lump sum payouts is around six weeks — though this is only after you’ve gone through the steps detailed above. The settlement process may occur over a period of a few months, depending on your circumstances. However, once your settlement check clears, you’re free to use the money however you choose.
On the other hand, if you choose scheduled payouts over time, you may need to meet with a broker who can assist you in creating that schedule.
Both payout options provide unique benefits. Talk with your personal injury attorney about which payout type you want.
Should I File for a Settlement or a Lawsuit?
The majority of personal injury claims don’t go to trial and end with a settlement check from the at-fault party’s insurance provider. However, certain circumstances may call for a lawsuit.
If you and the insurance company cannot agree on a settlement amount during negotiations, you can legally file a lawsuit and sue the at-fault party. Rather than negotiating an amount, a lawsuit usually requests a specific dollar amount in compensation.
Filing a lawsuit still doesn’t necessarily mean your case will go to trial. If the at-fault party decides to settle, the court will remove your case from the docket. The court can also dismiss your case if a judge deems it to have no legal basis for liability.
Likewise, taking your case to trial may present more risk than a settlement, as the court may only award you compensation if you prove every aspect of your case. Most legal advisors suggest negotiating a settlement to ensure you end up with some form of payment for the damages you’ve suffered.
Keep in Contact with Your Attorney
When you file a personal injury claim, your attorney is responsible for building your case, gathering the necessary paperwork, and negotiating with the insurance company to help you fight for adequate compensation. To make the process as smooth as possible, you should stay in contact with your attorney until your settlement check clears.
This way, you have a legal advisor on your side who can answer any questions you have and help you find appropriate solutions to any challenges you’re experiencing related to the case. An experienced attorney may be able to help you access your funds faster.
Contact Jackson & Foster Law for Professional Legal Help
Suffering a sudden injury is often a traumatic experience that leaves significant stress in its wake. Navigating healthcare costs, doctor’s visits, and medical procedures needed to aid you in your recovery can be deeply upsetting, and you may feel uncertain about how to begin the process of seeking compensation.
At Jackson & Foster Law, we know all too well the struggles that accidents can bring, which is why we work hard to help our clients fight for compensation. With decades of experience behind us, we have the skills and vast legal knowledge to build a strong case that illustrates the extent of your needs.
Whether you’ve suffered in a vehicle accident, an accident at work, or experienced harm due to medical malpractice, our personal injury lawyers in Mobile, AL, can provide legal guidance and help you negotiate the terms of your settlement. Allow our team to take on the troublesome aspects of this process so you can focus on recovery and rebuilding your life.
When we sit down to discuss your case, we take the time to learn about you, your experience, and how the accident has impacted your life. We understand that dealing with the legal side of things during your recovery may be stressful, so we aim to make the process as stress-free as possible by providing attentive, compassionate service.
Your needs are always at the center of our work. If you want to take the at-fault party to court to fight for maximum compensation, we’re at your service. However, if you’d prefer to finalize your settlement as quickly as possible, we can assist you in doing so while fighting for adequate compensation.
If you’re looking for a personal injury lawyer in Mobile, AL, our exceptional team at Jackson & Foster Law can support you during your time of need. With a passion for pursuing justice and plenty of experience negotiating personal injury settlements with insurance companies, we can support you throughout your case, including negotiations with the insurance company, and help you seek the funds you need to return to daily life.
Contact Jackson & Foster Law today at 251-433-6699 to schedule your consultation.