How Do I Get My Personal Injury Lawsuit Award?
Published on:June 30, 2017

When you talk to any personal injury attorney, they will tell you that winning your case is only the beginning of the battle. There are two ways your personal injury lawsuit can be finalized; it can be settled or a judge can render a verdict. How and when you get paid depends solely on how the conclusion of your case is reached and whether or not the defendant is digging in for a long fight.

I Settled. Now What?

Every personal injury lawsuit usually starts with the defendants asking for the plaintiffs to settle for a specified amount of money. Sometimes the plaintiff feels strongly about the case going to court and will refuse to settle. But if money is the motivation behind the lawsuit, then a settlement is usually explored at the very beginning of the process.

Your lawyer negotiates a settlement with the defendant’s insurance company, and the process can be quick or take a while. If a settlement is reached that you and your lawyer agree on, then the defendant will draw up a settlement agreement that goes to your attorney. Your attorney will review the settlement agreement, and you should insist on a meeting with your attorney to discuss the agreement before you sign it. You will sign the agreement in front of a notary public, and the paperwork is submitted to the court.

If all goes well, your settlement should be completed 60 to 90 days from the day your lawsuit was filed. It may take a little time for your lawyer to get the check, but even when your lawyer gets that check the process is not over. If there are medical or government claims for payment against your settlement, then those have to come out along with the lawyer’s fee before you get paid.

Off To Court

If both sides cannot come up with a settlement, then the case goes to court. In most states, average size civil court cases of under a certain amount are decided by a judge. The court in your area may determine that a jury trial is needed, which can escalate costs and make things take longer.

If you win your court case, then the defendant can appeal. The appeals process can take up to two years to complete, and your case still might not be done after the appeals process is over. If the defendant loses the appeal, then the case is usually over and the process of collecting your payment begins. If the defendant wins the appeal, then your attorney can choose to appeal that decision and it starts all over again. If the appeals court decides that you need a new trial, then you go back to square one.

It is possible that your new trial can also run into the appeals process, which would extend you case out by another few years. If the defendant has no insurance and no substantial financial means, then your lawyer may refuse to take the case. But if the defendant has no insurance but financial means, then the case would proceed directly against the defendant.

Once the court process is over, the defendant can delay payment repeatedly until forced to pay by the courts. The reality is that if your personal injury lawsuit goes to court, it could be many years before you receive any kind of compensation or final judgment.