A car accident can destabilize your life physically, emotionally, and financially. When you’re recovering from a car accident and the other driver was at fault, you want to receive a settlement as soon as possible so you can get on with your life. But many plaintiffs in car accident cases may wonder, “How long does it take to get a settlement check after a car accident?” In this article, we'll break down everything you need to know so you can have peace of mind.
What Is a Settlement Check?
Most personal injury cases — including car accident cases — do not go to court, despite what movies and TV might have you believe. Instead, most of these cases end in settlements. After an accident, you exchange insurance information with the other driver, and if you retain an attorney, your attorney will represent you and your right to be compensated from the insurance company. The insurance company will use an adjuster to try to minimize the payment that is due. The timeline will usually vary from case to case, but there are specific steps to the settlement check process that you can count on. Sometimes the case will settle if the insurance company makes an offer the injured party is willing to accept. If that happens, the insurance company issues a settlement check. If the insurance company refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, the case will proceed to trial.
The Process of Getting Your Injury Settlement
So how long does it take to get a settlement check? Every case varies, but starts with collecting the injured parties medical records, bills, and other documentation of loss (like wage loss). This can take quite some time depending up on the amount and type of treatment. The process of your personal injury settlement should look something like the one we've outlined below.
The Demand or Offer to Settle
A demand or offer to settle is a collection of information (records and bills) that is packaged up and sent to the adjuster. This begins the process of working toward a settlement.
The next step is to determine a fair amount for the economic and non-economic damages (injuries) sustained in the car accident. Insurance adjusters will come in with the goal of paying as little as possible. It is your attorney’s job to fight for the compensation you deserve.
Economic damages include things like medical bills, lost wages, disability, etc. Non-economic damages may include:
- Emotional distress or inconvenience
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of society and companionship
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of enjoyment in life
In some states, contributory negligence could keep you from receiving any compensation if you are deemed partially responsible for the accident. Ohio tends to use a comparative negligence model, but this is important to keep in mind if your car accident falls into another jurisdiction.
Your attorney will present an amount that you and they deem fair, which the insurance company can decide to accept or offer a counteroffer. By the end, all parties should have an amount they consider appropriate for a personal injury settlement check. A settlement agreement is then drafted.
Settlement Agreement / Settlement Release
A settlement agreement, or settlement release, is a “release of all claims,” which agrees to dismiss any claims and release the defendant and their insurance company of any liability in exchange for the agreed-upon settlement amount. By removing liability from the defendant, you cannot bring them to court over the same issue after receiving your settlement.
Settlement Check Disbursement
The next step is deposit and distribution, assuming you can reach a settlement agreement and the case does not go to trial. Your car accident settlement check may arrive in a lump sum or in a payment plan, depending on the details of your settlement agreement. The money is then placed in a trust to cover attorney fees, case costs, and any medical bills. The rest of the money then goes to you.
As previously mentioned, the settlement check should arrive between one to three weeks after the insurance company agrees to settle. However, there are some cases in which payment may be delayed.
If the plaintiff is a minor, the money may be held in an annuity until they come of age. If the car accident victim died, the probate process would need to be completed before loved ones can receive a settlement check. In some cases, the defendant or insurance company may be slow to pay.
Do I Need To Have Representation In A Settlement?
It’s important to have legal representation when you enter into a settlement. Insurance adjusters are trained to find holes in your case so they can walk away paying as little as possible — or nothing at all. Your attorney should handle all communication with insurance adjusters so they can best represent your right to a financial settlement.
Want a Fair Settlement? Hire an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer
A financial settlement won’t erase the car accident, but it will help you get back on your feet as you recover. An attorney can help ensure you get a fair settlement for the damages you suffered.
The Moore Law Firm offers decades of combined experience, and we have even been interviewed by Fox 19 News to provide our expertise in personal injury cases. We can defend you in settlement negotiations and work to get you the settlement you deserve.
Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation.