There are two primary ways that personal injury claims are resolved. The first is when you and the liability insurance carrier for the responsible party reach a settlement. The second resolution is when your case goes to trial and there is a verdict in your favor by a judge or a jury. (In some cases, a third option – winning an award through arbitration – may also be possible.)
Once a personal injury case is settled, there is generally no chance to go back and ask for a bigger settlement. In a trial, however, the losing side (in this case, the defense) could attempt to appeal the decision. An appeal will delay the timeline for when you are paid. In cases with multiple defendants and/or plaintiffs, this can take considerably longer than it might in a case involving one party on each side.
In Tennessee, all settlements and awards are based on a lump sum amount, which includes all damages: economic, non-economic, and punitive (if applicable). Barring any appeals or delays, you could be paid in as little as two months. Larger awards, however, may take much longer.
Why does it take so long to receive the settlement?
There are a lot of steps to take before you can receive your settlement. Though our injury lawyers always aim to move this part of the process along as quickly as we can for you, the time frame is sometimes out of our control.
Before you can receive a check from the opposing side, you’ll need to sign a release form and send it to the insurance company. The form basically states that you are waiving your right to take any further legal action. Often, we attempt to include a form like this in our original negotiations with the insurance company, so that you don’t face additional delays.
After that, you have to wait for the insurance company to cut the check. Often, large companies only write checks once a week. If “check day” is Monday and the release form comes on Tuesday, you’ll have to wait another week for the check to be sent.
The check itself does not get deposited directly into your account. Instead, it goes into a trust account; the larger the check, the longer it may take to clear. Once the check clears, any outstanding bills and liens will be paid first. In some cases, we may be able to negotiate a better settlement for those bills. This means it takes longer to get the final settlement, but it also means that you will receive more money.
Once all the bills have been handled, we take our pay from the settlement. Then, the firm will send you the remainder of the money.
What about structured settlements?
There are some case resolutions that involve a structured settlement. Structured settlements are paid out over time, and are often used in cases where the injured party will need life-long medical care. They offer some advantages – they’re mostly tax-free, they’re stable, and they allow heirs to continue receiving the payments – but they are designed so that you cannot access the money all at once. Therefore, if a medical emergency arises, you cannot access the funds from your structured settlement to pay for the care you need.
At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, our Sevierville injury lawyers have been fighting aggressively for victims of accidents for more than 20 years. We prepare each case for trial, but will move towards a settlement when it is in your best interests. For help with any personal injury claim or wrongful death claim, call (865) 428-8780 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We represent injury victims in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee areas.