How Long is My Lawyer Allowed to Hold the Settlement Check?

Lawsuits such as personal injury cases often take a lot of time to reach a verdict. But once it does, you can’t help but feel relieved that it’s finally over. Reaching a verdict means you can get the money you need to pay for the damages you encounter. Not only that but settlement checks can help you cover medical bills.

It may seem easy to receive your settlement check right away, but that’s not the case. What this means is that there is a process before the defendant can pay for the settlement. And once they do, your lawyer will typically hold it to pay off other legal charges than theirs. Unless you apply for a pre-settlement loan, you can’t expect to pay your bills on time.

Let’s look at some of the factors that can influence when you can get your settlement check.

The Process of Getting Your Settlement Check and the Problems That May Arise

When you agree to take your lawsuit to the court, you need to expect that you won’t get paid upfront. There is a process to reach a certain verdict and a settlement amount that the defendant may owe you. This agreement is bound by the laws in your state. And since your settlement check is part of that agreement, receiving it also involves a legal process.

It can take weeks or even years to reach a settlement agreement, depending on your case. The time it will take to process your compensation can hurt your financial capabilities.

This often happens to victims of some type of personal injury like car accidents. Getting into an accident and receiving serious injuries takes away your capabilities to work. This means no income for you to cover your medical bills. Settlement funding companies save you the trouble of running out of cash even before your case reaches a verdict.

Not only that but they help you avoid settling for lower terms. You won’t have to give in to financial pressure and accept the first offer that comes your way. You can hold out for a larger settlement since you’re not struggling to cover your expenses at the moment.

Settlement funding can make the waiting process more bearable. But it also helps to know what goes on in the process of receiving your settlement check. This way, you’ll have a good idea of how long you need to wait before you get the compensation you deserve.

1.   Signing Important Documents

In some cases, you’ll find that you and the defendant already agreed to a settlement agreement before trial. When this happens, your lawyers will notify the court of what you have agreed on. The court, then, will state the order that lets you file documents within 30 to 60 days.

The most important document is the release form. Signing it means you’re agreeing not to pursue other legal action against the defendant in your case. Without a release form, you won’t get your settlement check. But if you already filed a lawsuit against the same defendant for a different reason, you don’t need to drop those claims.


Your release form should address these three issues:

  • You absolve the defendant and their insurer of further responsibility. This means that they won’t need to pay you, even after discovering that you suffered additional losses or injuries.
  • Despite settling the claim, the defendant and their insurance provider do not admit liability.
  • You waive all other claims against the defendant and the insurance company arising from the incident. By doing this, you give up your right to later pursue a claim for further damages.

Sometimes, this causes a delay especially if either of the parties disagrees with its terms. This means you’ll have to redraft the release form to meet both of your demands. And if you can’t reach an agreement, a judge or jury will decide the case, which slows down the proceedings.

2.   Releasing the Settlement Check

The defendant’s insurance company often pays the settlement amount. The law requires it to provide the settlement check as soon as it gets it. This check is payable to both you and your lawyer. But it needs to send the check to your lawyer first before you can receive your money.


Every state has unique laws about how long a defendant can issue settlement money. Unfortunately, some firms take advantage of this to delay the process. For example, once they receive your release form, they can process your check as long as the law allows them to.

Some states allow them to process the settlement for 21 days, and some for 30 days. If the state allows for 30 days of processing time, the defendant can accept the form after 30 days.

When your lawyer receives it, they will place it in a trust account until it clears. It takes as long as 5 to 7 days if you have bigger settlement checks.

When the check is cleared, your lawyer deducts their portion to cover the cost of their legal services. They will also settle any outstanding liens or payments on your behalf. After doing so, that’s when they will mail or wire transfer the check to you.


In some cases, you often need to pay medical bills or liens as soon as the case reaches a verdict. Your lawyer will take care of this for you and it is often easy to resolve. But it’s different if you have Medicaid and personal injury settlements. In this case, you’ll have to wait for months to resolve these liens from a government-funded program.

Other Factors That Delay Your Settlement Check: Structured Settlement Payments

A defendant can also pay you through a structured settlement. This lets the defendant pay the settlement sum over time rather than in one lump sum. You can encounter these agreements when a kid is involved. Your case can also reach structured settlement agreements if you have severe injuries that need ongoing medical care.

With this kind of payment, the defendant will pay you on a fixed schedule. Ask your attorney about your settlement payout if your case is settled for structured payments. Without reading the terms, structured settlements can add delays to the release of your settlement check.

When this happens, you can still avoid financial difficulties with structured settlement funding companies. These companies can buy your annuity for a certain amount of money that you both agreed on.

It’s similar to settlement funding companies in a way that you can advance the payment you’ll get. The difference between these two cash advance settlement options lies in how much money you will get.

With settlement loans, you can get 10 to 20% of your settlement in advance. You will still get the rest of the settlement amount once the process is complete.

When it comes to selling your annuity, you can’t expect to get 100% of the money you’re supposed to get. Most finance companies offer a portion of how much you get from structured settlements. But other factors can influence this like the annuity’s overall cost and how you get your payments.

To Summarize

Pursuing a lawsuit can get you the money you deserved after the injuries and damages you experienced. But even after reaching a settlement agreement, you can’t automatically take home the money.

As you can see, you still have to undergo a lot of steps before you get your settlement cash. Some things can delay the process, depending on the facts of your case. So how long will it take for you to receive your settlement money? Let’s break it down:

  • Drafting and signing the release form: 30 to 60 days
  • Releasing the settlement check: 20 to 30 days
  • Paying legal fees: 7 to 10 days
  • Paying medical liens: depends on how long your lawyer negotiated it to be, but often resolves for a few months

Then there is the case of structured settlement payments. This depends on the terms you and the defendant agreed to,but in most cases, the agreement is 20 years.

Excluding structured payments, you can expect to receive your settlement check within a year. That’s why pre-settlement funding is popular. Legal funding companies let you get a cash advance on a settlement. You won’t have to wait a long time to get the payment you deserve.