Generally speaking, it is everyone’s goal to settle a case without a drawn-out lawsuit that can take years to prosecute and consume massive amounts of time and resources for all.
One of the biggest myths about the settlement process, however, is that as soon as the two sides come to an agreement, the client can expect the check the next day — usually not true.
Unfortunately, due to the many parties, medical providers, insurance companies (yours, the defendant’s insurance company, health insurance companies and others) and others involved in a lawsuit, it can often take a good deal of time before the client actually receives their check–maybe even a year or more. Let’s say that you were the victim of an auto accident that is fortunate enough to settle without going to trial. The first thing that needs to happen is that the defendant’s insurance company will send over a sometimes lengthy contract called a “Release,” where the insurance company / defendant agrees to pay you the agreed-upon sum only if you agree to drop the lawsuit (or never file one). These “Releases” are often complex-worded documents that cover everything from the parties’ liabilities to who will pay for any medical bills that arise in the future (almost always, this will be the plaintiff).
After this process, the next step is for any public assistance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to recover any money they have spent — this is a long and frustrating process for attorneys, more on these to come and we can literally write an entire book on these two entities and their unique processes to obtain their money — which can, unfortunately, take up to several months or a year or more to work out.
Then, anyone else classified as a “lien holder” will have the opportunity to make a claim from the proceeds — this includes doctors and hospitals that have unpaid bills relating to the accident and other similar expenses and even your own insurance company who has paid any medical bills and other costs. These “rights” to collect money when money is paid already are often referred to as “subrogation rights” meaning your insurance company has the right, by law, to “step into your shoes” and sue the person responsible for causing the bills in the first place. While this is a high-level overview, we can also right a book on subrogation rights.
Then, and only then, do the client and attorney get to cash in the check. This process can often be frustrating, considering the length of time that it can take, but it is important to keep this in mind from the beginning of the process. The financial ins and outs of lawsuits are complicated matters that sometimes take on a life of their own and is only part of the process that an attorney can help you with.
Most importantly, if you try to handle this aspect of a case yourself, you can easily find yourself subject to paying back the bills yourself if not properly handled due to laws and regulations that apply differently in each situation.
You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you ensure that all of your liens and subrogation issues are handled correctly. Most importantly, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!). We would be honored to help you with your matters – large or small.