How Long Does it Take to Receive a Settlement Check?

By David Hutchinson - Updated June 15, 2017
Wooden gavel laying on American dollars

After you’ve reached a settlement agreement with the defendant or their insurance company, it usually takes between two and six weeks for your settlement check to arrive. There may be exceptions to this rule, for example, where there is a medical care lien or other lien on the settlement funds. Generally though, you should factor between two and six weeks for the parties to sign the settlement documents, figure out the exact proceeds, and transfer the money.

Settlement Checks Usually Come From Plaintiff's Attorney

Often the funds from the defendant are produced in check form as a condition of the execution of the settlement. The plaintiff's attorney will collect the check and hold the money in a trust account before paying a net sum to the plaintiff. The attorney will deduct from the proceeds of the check those administrative costs the attorney incurred prosecuting the lawsuit which have not already been charged to the plaintiff. These might include such charges as copying costs, mailing costs and so on.

Attorney's Contingency Fee is Taken From the Settlement Check

In the case of, for example, a personal injury lawsuit, where the attorney's fees are paid on a contingency basis, those fees will also be subtracted from the sum received from the defendant, prior to the remaining funds being distributed to the plaintiff. Additionally, any liens placed on the settlement funds, such as a Medicare lien, will be subtracted prior to distribution of the residuary to the plaintiff. There can be delays in healthcare insurers sending a “final balance due” statement which may slow down the cutting of your settlement check.

Settlement Options

While a plaintiff in a settled suit can generally expect to receive the residuary of the settlement funds relatively quickly after settlement, parties to a lawsuit have latitude to structure a settlement in a way that is mutually agreeable to all parties. For example, the parties may agree that the plaintiff will receive a series of payments, rather than a single check. Or the parties may agree that the defendant tender a single check, but that it be tendered at some future date. Often, these future and structured payout schemes result in a larger overall payout to the plaintiff, but one worth less when discounted to present value. What is appropriate in any given case is a function of the circumstances unique to that case.

If You Do Not Get Your Check

If you do not receive your settlement check within six weeks, there may be a problem. Contact your attorney, if you have one, and ask what is going on. Your attorney may be able to expedite the shipping of documents or secure a partial payment of your settlement while your attorney holds the balance in order to settle your outstanding claims.

About the Author

David Hutchinson is a lawyer, and has been a professional writer and editor since 2009. David writes and edits for several law firm sites and is a contributor to the Red Lion Reports academic legal blog. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Rider University and his Juris Doctor from Pennsylvania State's Dickinson School of Law.

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